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MuseIT engagement of cultural institutions : the experience of Teatro Stabile of Turin

Project MuseIT aims to co-design, develop, and co-evaluate a multisensory, user-centred platform for enriched engagement with cultural assets with inclusion and equal opportunity for all. The project aims also to engage stakeholders from cultural institution that have worked on accessibility and inclusion for all kind of users in their environment.

In next months the project, in parallel to the technical development, will collect data from cultural institutions involved in this topics in order to engage them and exchange ideas and best practices.

One of the cultural institution MuseIT met in this research is the Teatro Stabile of Turin, an historical institution which in Seventies was the first theatre in Italy to promote a new relationship with the world of schools and urban suburbs, attesting itself as a promoter of important phenomena such as theatrical animation and decentralization. 

The Teatro Stabile of Turin, focused on inclusion, started approaching to accessibility issues in 2020 with a project focused on digital transformation. Initially some technological tools for inclusion were bought and then the topic began to be in the interest of the Theatre. They understood the importance for the theatre to be a place for everyone so they equipped their theatres and communication channels with tools and contents that makes their shows accessible and enjoyable at the same time. The aim is to include everyone : deaf audience, blind audience, older and young people, audience visually impaired and with neurodivergences but also curious people and new audience. 

It was not just a matter of removing architectural barriers : the change has involved every aspect of the institution from the website to performances that begin before the curtain opens.

The website allows users to select between different profiles of accessibility : hypolepsy, low vision, cognitive disability, ADHD and blind people. There is the possibility to set up character, colors, animations and highlighting content. In addition, the website contains an explanatory video with audio, subtitles and a LIS (sign language) interpreter but also the simplified hall card that delves into the plot, characters, author, scenes and costumes. The simplified plot summarizes the development of the story.

Before the performance begins, guided and touch tour on stage are organized. The audience is accompanied by one or more actors to discover spaces, customes, objects, makeup and hairstyles of the characters. These tours are so well organized that sometimes participants with disabilities can be accompanied only by their dog, so they are able to take part independently. In addition, an audio introduction is provided and disseminated in the auditorium at the beginning of each performance and offers helpful hints on accessibility and visual elements. 

During the performance, the audience with hearing issues or loss can wear smartglasses or use tablets and smartphones to read the surtitles, which are available in Italian, simplified Italian with sound descriptions and in English. The words are highlighted in different colors according to the characters in the show.

In order to encourage the participation of people with autism for some performances, relaxed performances are provided: lights and sounds are reduced, darkness is not total and the hall doors remain open during the performance.

Since 2021, the Turin theater has joined the Europe Beyond Access (EBA) network, which focuses precisely on accessibility and the performing arts.

The project was initially financed thanks to a grant from the Compagnia di San Paolo Foundation, which covered the costs of the first season; currently, the theater sustains its expenses individually thanks in part to grants from the State. It has had a continuous program of accessible performances for three seasons. 

The focus on the accessibility has also changed the institution internally in terms of: new skills for staff, new organizational processes, new training plans and cross-sectoral work tables.

The Teatro Stabile di Torino is expanding its audiences and collaborations with partners who care about accessibility and inclusion with the aim of enhancing its public function becoming a place for sharing, education and well-being of all the people and with the hope that this will become a replicable model on a national scale. 

MuseIT will share best practices to exchange ideas and to let interested audiences know about useful initiatives such as that of the Teatro Stabile di Torino! Stay connected.

References : 

Valerio Clari, Andare a teatro senza vedere o sentire, « Il post », 30 maggio 2023


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