Accessibility Becomes Front and Center in the Seattle Arts Scene

Accessibility Becomes Front and Center in the Seattle Arts Scene

Elizabeth Ralston leads the Seattle Cultural Accessibility Consortium.

What would the Seattle arts community look like as a fully accessible, inclusive space? Ask the folks at the Seattle Cultural Accessibility Consortium, an organization that connects local cultural and arts groups with what they need to ensure that everyone, regardless of any disability, can enjoy and participate in arts programs and performances.

We talked with Consortium founder Elizabeth Ralston about how improved accessibility is key to changing the arts community and opening doors to new audiences.

Accessibility can be a daunting, overwhelming process. How do you show venues what they need to do?

Ralston: Through our workshops and networking events where they tap the knowledge of the community for resources. I am also a consultant and work with clients on developing accessibility plans and auditing their programs and content for accessibility. 

What are some of the Consortium’s key accomplishments?

Ralston: We ended the year strong with three workshops and three networking events, called Consortium Connections. We have a website with resources. A strong steering committee–we just recruited three new members. We have two seasons of a podcast called Opening Doors, which consists of interviews with people from the disability community about access, intersectionality, and art.

What’s your favorite arts venue in Seattle, and what are the key accessibility features?

Ralston: I’d like to rephrase the question to: What arts venue is succeeding in accessibility? Answer: the Sound Theatre Company. They employ actors with disabilities and are intentional about creating a rehearsal environment that works for people with disabilities who have differing needs. Their plays and shows are produced and run by people with disabilities. They have a radical inclusion ticketing policy where anyone can buy a ticket at a price that works for them and can sit where they need to sit in the theater.

What are you most excited about for the future of accessibility in Seattle?

Ralston: I feel like accessibility is really moving into the forefront of peoples’ consciousness, rather than being treated as an afterthought. The arts sector has been battered mightily by the pandemic, which exposed a lot of the inequities, and now people know they can’t go back to business as usual. Considering new audiences and markets is critical as reopening plans are underway.

Note: For more info on hearing-friendly arts venues in the Seattle area, see our list and map. Venues with a hearing loop include the Seattle Rep, Town Hall Seattle, the Federal Way Performing Arts Center, Carlson Theater at Bellevue College, the Bellevue Arts Museum, the Driftwood Players, Everett Performing Arts Center, and Village Theater Issaquah.