Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Theatre NorthWest expands its wheelchair accessible seating

‘We all really believe that art should be for everyone’
Theatre NorthWest has expanded wheelchair accessible seating.

Last year Theatre NorthWest realized their wheelchair accessible seating arrangement was no longer meeting the needs of the community and it urgently needed expanding.

The theatre says its audiences have been increasingly diversifying, especially for relaxed performances, which are mainly attended by people with disabilities.

At two of the relaxed performances last season the demand for wheelchair accessible seating exceeded what they could offer.

“Last year, we saw just how much of a demand there was for wheelchair accessible seating and that our existing chairs was really limiting how many people we could serve and we all really believe that art should be for everyone,” said accessibility coordinator Heidi Klepsch.

To meet the growing need for wheelchair-accessible seating, the Theatre NorthWest needed to replace its existing chairs, which were fixed to the floor, with free-standing chairs that could easily be moved to create wheelchair accessible spaces.

They purchased new custom chairs for the front row of the audience. They’re free standing so they can be moved and shuffled as needed to create wheelchair accessible spaces anywhere along the front row.

The new chairs will allow seating for up to 19 patrons in wheelchairs at once instead of only nine.

“It took a lot of work to get these new chairs here but we're so excited now that they are here, and we can keep up to 19 people in wheelchairs instead of just nine. So that's a huge difference,” said Klepsch.

“For us, this is huge, it means that our wheelchair accessible seating is no longer pushed off strictly to both sides but it can be accessed across the entire gamut of sightlines in our space,” explains artistic producer Marnie Hamagami.

She said the chairs also make it possible for a companion to comfortably sit next to a wheelchair space.

“It's really exciting for us, we continue to deepen our organization's commitment to accessibility. It becomes so obvious how important this is -  the first time you see people coming to theatre, coming to a place that they've been excluded from based on the physical limitations of the space,” said Hamagami.

“It's so rewarding to see them and how excited they are to finally be a part of what's happening. You can imagine what it would be like to be system systemically excluded from certain things just because the space isn't prepared for you so this was huge for us.”

Next season, the ticket buying website will have a new seating map to reflect the expanded wheelchair accessible seating selection. Wheelchair accessible seats will be purchasable online.

The project was made possible by funding from IREN (formerly Iris Energy) and BC Gaming.