Australians with a disability are sometimes forgotten but a handful of organisations are championing the cause of arts accessibility.
After the house lights are dimmed and the actors make their entrance to the stage, it is customary for theatregoers to remain silent until the curtain call. But for Maribel Steel, who has been legally blind since the age of seventeen, the whispered commentary provided by her companion is integral to her understanding of the action that occurs onstage.
“The person that’s with me will describe it, so it’s like making a mind map of what’s going on and my hearing is playing the biggest role in putting it together,” she said. “There’s been the odd time where people will shush us, and my partner will turn around and say ‘she’s blind’, and people feel very embarrassed. But we try not to talk loudly and I find on the whole that people are very considerate.”
When the degenerative eye condition Retinitis Pigmentosa took hold of Steel’s vision as a teenager, she was flown to England to receive a radical bee-sting therapy, but the effects of the incurable disease were unpreventable. Despite initially fearing the drastic impact of the condition, Steel has...