Press Releases

Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment Backs Innovative App To Make NYC Theatre Performances More Accessible

First-of-its-kind GalaPro app offers real-time closed captioning and subtitles for people who are deaf and hard of hearing

 

NEW YORK – The Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) today announced a partnership with GalaPro, a first-of-its-kind mobile app, to revolutionize the theatre-going experience, particularly for the deaf, hard of hearing, low vision, and blind communities. To foster greater access to theatrical performances for all New Yorkers, MOME will be providing up to $100,000 to cover the cost of installing GalaPro software in qualifying off-Broadway, not-for-profit, and independent theatres throughout New York City.

GalaPro uses voice recognition technology, developed specifically for theatre and live performances to provide real-time closed captioning, amplification, and translation on users' smartphones or tablets, ensuring that theatre-goers from here and all over the world can simultaneously enjoy and understand the story unfolding on stage. For individuals who are blind or low vision, the app can deliver audio description. In order to avoid distracting others nearby, the app emits no backlight and the captions appear in either pink or gray. The device must be set in flight mode and use a dedicated closed WiFi network.

MOME is offering to reimburse theatres for the costs of a free one-time installation of GalaPro software. To be eligible for reimbursement, theatres must be fully operating in New York City for a minimum of five years, and companies must produce or host 4-6 productions per season, with a run of at least 20 days. Theatres offering residency programs and those renting affordable theatre space to other producing companies, thus serving more throughout the community, may qualify if 4-6 productions per season can be guaranteed. For eligibility or other related questions, please contact Carla Hoke-Miller at cphokemiller@media.nyc.gov.

After the software installation is complete, individual productions hosted by the theatre will enjoy discounts on GalaPro services including closed captioning, audio translation, and language translation. Audience members who use the simultaneous language translation rather than the free closed captioning or audio description app pay a small fee.

"New York City is world-renowned for its theatrical offerings, from Broadway to off-Broadway to off, off-Broadway," said Julie Menin, Commissioner of Media and Entertainment. "We are delighted to partner with GalaPro and the City's theatrical community to ensure that the theatre-going experience is available and enjoyable to all New Yorkers, regardless of their abilities."

"We are proud and excited to be working together with MOME and the City of New York to promote accessibility and to provide accessible performances for everyone," said Yonat Burlin, GalaPro CEO. "We believe that making every performance inclusive is a true game changer for everyone utilizing our services. GalaPro is grateful to be providing services on Broadway and now off-Broadway beginning with Roundabout's Laura Pels Theatre and Playwrights Horizons. We hope to share our inclusivity mission with new theaters all over the city."

According to the latest Census data from the American Community Survey, more than 185,000 New Yorkers are hard of hearing. Theatre venues have and will continue to set special dates for performances geared for the deaf and hard of hearing communities through the use of professional American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters and GalaPro's services extend accessibility to all performances, where patrons have the flexibility to sit anywhere in the venue to use them.

"The theatrical stages of New York City have long been a home to diverse ideas, characters and backgrounds of the many cultures that make our city so great," said Victor Calise, Commissioner of the New York City Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities. "To continue this celebration of diversity, we cannot forget about people with disabilities both on and off the stage. It is with immense satisfaction that we support this partnership with 2018 Sapolin Awardee Galapro, enabling audiences with disabilities to enjoy the prestigious Broadway performances that are a part of New York City's allure. This is yet another victory in making New York City the most accessible city in the world."

"NYC's theater community is renowned throughout the world, and working to ensure that all New Yorkers can experience its full variety of offerings is tremendously important," said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. "This new partnership between MOME and GalaPro will better enable theaters of every size to make their work more accessible. It will also offer more non-English speakers and people with disabilities expanded options for when and where to see a show - something many New Yorkers take for granted."

GalaPro has already been installed in many Broadway theaters, as encouraged by The Broadway League, including all 17 Shubert theatres, and all Roundabout theaters on and off Broadway. GalaPro services are also available in the Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater, the Lyric Theatre, and some Nederlander venues. Playwrights Horizons is the first theatre to participate in the MOME program.

The partnership with GalaPro is the latest example of the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment's broad commitment to ensure and expand access to New York City's rich cultural menu for all New Yorkers to enjoy. These signature initiatives include Broadway in the Boros, an annual summer program that brings Broadway performers and musicians to public parks and plazas throughout the city for free, live outdoor performances accompanied by ASL musical interpreters, and Access Broadway, a program that has provided over 1,000 free tickets to residents of NYCHA housing to attend family-friendly musicals.

"We applaud the theater community for collaborating with GalaPro on this very worthwhile initiative to make New York City even more accessible to residents and travelers," said Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company.

"In the push for accessibility, each point of entry makes a huge difference," said DJ Kurs, Deaf West Theatre artistic director. "We applaud this significant step towards making theater accessible to an underserved population. The theater is a magical space where communities come together, and we have been excluded from many of these venues for too long. As we work together to bring theater to audiences, we are building the next generation of patrons, artists, and #deaftalent."

"It's wonderful that MOME is providing this generous funding to expand GalaPro's reach beyond Broadway into the smaller theatres throughout the city," said Victoria Bailey, TDF executive director. "GalaPro is a great addition to the suite of services available to theatregoers with hearing and vision loss, as it makes it possible for patrons to attend any performance. We congratulate MOME and GalaPro on this partnership. As another theatre season gets underway, TDF continues its commitment to accessibility by providing live services at special performances, such as open captioning, sign language interpreting and live audio description to a range of Broadway and Off Broadway shows, as well as providing access and training to theatres across the United States.