Pittsburgh Arts Organizations Get Updated Assistance Technology For Patrons With Disabilities

Jun 22, 2016

Performing arts organizations in Pittsburgh can now access updated assistance technology to offer to patrons who have hearing or visual disabilities.

The devices are available to any of the organizations that are a part of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council and were purchased with a $14,000 grant from the Allegheny Regional Asset District.

“It’s two new assistive audio systems that basically provide microphones and earphones for people who need help, particularly with hearing,” Arts Council CEO Mitch Swain said. “It will allow descriptive audio for people who are blind, as well.”

The technology is also capable of simultaneously translating performances into other languages.

Swain said almost all of the assistive technology available at local performances had become outdated and unable to keep up with increasing need. Most of the equipment was installed after the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1992, he said.

The City Theatre also had a shared assistive audio system, but Swain said it eventually broke down – a result of overuse.

In addition to helping provide assistance technology, the Regional Asset District funded a portable wheelchair ramp to be shared by the Strip District’s Attack Theater and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust in Downtown.

The organization’s Board Chair Dusty Elias Kirk said the upgrades will provide people with hearing and vision disabilities access to arts and culture in a new way.

“About one-fifth of the population in our region needs some sort of accessibility assistance, whether it’s visual, physical, hearing or any other kind,” Kirk said.

According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, hearing loss is the third most common health condition after arthritis and heart disease.

The equipment reserve form can be found on GPAC’s website.