I have often teared up at a theater, but at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I teared up because of the theater. Let me explain: OSF‘s dedication to Access for All its patrons is an impressive example of social responsibility — and a smart move for the ongoing success of the theater organization. From the recent revamping of the communal “Bricks” area to installing elevators and All-Gender ADA-equipped bathrooms, this organization has obviously gone to great expense and thoughtful effort in its ever-evolving accessibility upgrades. The cumulative effect is nothing less than a WOW welcome for all visitors.
That’s all great, but what got me all choked up was when I booked this year‘s tickets: The seating diagram for the Angus Bowmer Theater showed that extra room had been created to accommodate people utilizing mobility devices, people like me, and with a good number of companion seats. A dozen or more seats, seats that could’ve otherwise yielded a ticket sale, were taken out in order to widen two aisles specifically for wheelchair (WC) seating (sections 3 and 6).
This accessibility upgrade is a wise investment, socially and fiscally, especially with a large and affluent aging baby boomer population; an excellent example of putting people over profits in the short term, with greater returning patronage in the long term. My husband and I were so much more comfortable maneuvering my power wheelchair and watching the performance given this new seating design in the Bowmer. It went so well that we have already booked tickets for a return visit this season, happy to be able to procure our tickets once again in this thoughtfully expanded WC seating area. (And because we just have to see Oklahoma! again!)
Note: Although OSF’s three theaters now have ample WC seating, it is still based on availability, so don’t hesitate to book your WC and companion seat tickets in advance.
I am also compelled to gratefully acknowledge the OSF ushering team. Inside and outside the theaters, these red-vested stewards of the OSF theater experience (many of them volunteers) have always made us feel so welcome, especially Richard who always takes a moment to greet us and makes sure that we are comfortably situated. The entire team of OSF ushers have have often anticipated our accessibility needs before we have! If you are patron requiring accessibility assistance of any kind – audio, visual, mobility, etc. — I guarantee that you will be well cared for by this friendly and professional team. (Full listing of OSF Access Services here.)
The turning radius onto the “Bricks” ramp near the fence is pretty tight, especially for scooters. Could it be widened?
Ashland street corners and pavements need some love. Several of the festival’s nearby corners and bumpy sidewalks are not as wheelchair friendly as they could be.
Also, more handicap permit parking would be gratefully appreciated.
See you at the theater!
Where to stay: Lithia Springs Resort, Ashland, OR
Making Accessibility Happen
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The above post was emailed to: Oregon Shakespeare Festival, OSF Access Services Coordinator, Ashland Chamber of Commerce, Ashland Mayor.
Thank you very much for forwarding your blog post. We’re thrilled that you like our facilities improvements related to the Bricks, the expanded Bowmer seating, and the accessible restrooms. Thank you, too, for your compliments of our House Staff. It’s good to know that they are providing quality customer service.
Regarding the turning radius at the top of the ramp leading into the Bowmer, I’ll pass this suggestion along to our Company Manager and to the head of Physical Plant.
We look forward to seeing you on your return visit to OSF this season.
Julie Simon, Ph.D., CI, CT
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Access Services Coordinator