The latest from the Black Country 

Access for All with New App Technology at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Sydney Howard aged 12 with Steve BullWolverhampton Grand Theatre have launched a brand new Audio Description service to further improve access for theatregoers who are blind or partially sighted and hard of hearing.

Theatregoers included those from ‘Guide Dogs’ (formerly Blind Children UK) and could trial the technology for the first time at the Audio Described performance of Aladdin on Sunday 15 January.

The free app, MobileConnect from Sennheiser streams audio content via WiFi live and in great quality directly to theatregoers personal smartphones. This means that not only can users benefit from hearing audio description of the show at designated Audio Described performances, but at standard performances, those who are hard of hearing may benefit from having the audio from the production’s sound desk played through the app, amplifying what they are able to hear in the auditorium. As well as the new technology, a ‘touch tour’ of the props and costumes on stage before the performance helps those who are visually impaired to gain a better understanding of what is on stage.

The Grand Theatre has been able to offer this technology to theatregoers with help from the Steve Bull Foundation which has funded the installation of MobileConnect. The foundation provides charitable support in the form of grants to organisations primarily in the Black Country and the West Midlands which specialise in assisting young people, the disabled, the homeless, the sick and the disadvantaged.

Using WiFi, the new system will be a lot more reliable than the previous, which used infrared technology. It is fully compatible with iOS and Android accessibility modes where visual impairment support is required. Users can download the app to their own smartphone, and the Grand Theatre has iPods preloaded with the app for users without smartphones.

During the pantomime run, the theatre also hosted a Relaxed Performance of the pantomime on Thursday 19 January. The Relaxed Performance was the fourth of its kind at the Grand Theatre; a specially adapted performance to reduce anxiety levels felt by those on the Autistic Spectrum and/or with Additional Needs.

Sound and lighting levels are reduced and pyrotechnics are removed and auditorium doors remain open for easy access should anyone feel the need to leave and return to the auditorium. The show is broadcast onto screens in the foyers and bars to prevent anyone having to miss any of the performance, even if they need to leave the auditorium. Theatregoers found comfort in a ‘Chill Out Zone’ designed as a space to relax in a quieter setting. 

Before the Relaxed Performance, cast member Lisa Riley introduced the band and sign language interpreter, talking the audience through the basics of the show aiming to make them feel at ease.

Access and Operations Manager at the Grand Theatre, Sue Howell said; “we are very excited by the possibilities MobileConnect opens up for us at the theatre and the hope we can utilise this new system to improve and develop our services and accessibility for all. I personally feel very privileged to be involved in providing services of this kind and hope this new development is the start of bigger things for access at our theatre.”

Steve Bull, said; “the Foundation has been supporting the Grand Theatre with access needs for a number of years, including the first ever Relaxed Performance in 2013 for theatregoers on the Autistic Spectrum or with Additional Needs. It has been a pleasure to help the theatre introduce this new hearing system and it was great to see children and adults alike fully enjoying the pantomime thanks to the new app.”

For more information on accessible performances at the theatre, visit or ‘like’ Wolverhampton Grand Theatre Access on Facebook. Alternatively call Access and Operations Manager, Sue Howell on 01902 57 33 20 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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