National Disability Theatre employs professional theatre artists who create fully accessible, world-class theatre and storytelling; change social policy and the nation’s narrative about disability culture; and provide a guiding model in accessibility for the arts and cultural sector.
National Disability Theatre strives to be a space where all people are respected, valued, and meaningfully incorporated throughout the organization, including individuals who have multiple identities among distinct groups, cultures, and lived experiences.
Our goals are to
Show that a large professional theatre company can be run entirely by people with disabilities.
Radically transform theatrical practices by telling stories through a lens of disability culture.
Lead the nation in inclusion, representation, and access with support from the top leaders in disability and entertainment.
Powerfully spark greater inclusion for people with disabilities in other economic sectors.
A company producing large scale professional work run entirely by people with disabilities will show the world that our differences really are our strengths. We will impact industries beyond our own, demonstrating that people with disabilities can efficiently and productively undertake professional work at the highest level, and that accessibility is not only right – but also profitable.
Our performances will be 100% accessible, following the practices of The Kennedy Center and VSA’s LEAD Conference, and will serve as a guiding model for other arts and culture organizations.'
20% of the American population has a disability. This makes people with disabilities both the largest minority group in the United States and also the least represented. Access not only affects this population's ability to participate in arts and culture, but also that of their spouses and families. That is a huge percentage of the American population that until now has not felt very comfortable or welcomed attending the arts.
Currently 95% of disabled characters are played by non-disabled actors.
The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is twice the national average of other protected groups. For many people with disabilities, their basic cost of living is dictated, without restriction, by the drug and health insurance industries. Over 50% of college graduates on the autism spectrum are unemployed.
Audiences will get to see professional actors performing roles they would never otherwise get the opportunity to play at a professional theatre. Theatres will get the opportunity to see that these actors can and should play these roles. This sort of representation is important because inclusion in the arts and media leads directly to inclusion in life.
In order to normalize disability (rather than other or sensationalize it), we will not exclusively tell stories about disability. We will also partner closely with press and a variety of media to reach a broader audience than we could in person alone.
Access will start before the audience ever arrives at the theatre, with online virtual tours of the building available. Each performance will be fully accessible with open captioning, active listening systems, interpreters, audio description, and more. Access will continue after each performance ends, as the audience is welcomed to costume pieces and props that may be touched and felt on stage by anyone, including audience members with visual impairments and sensory-seeking neurodiverse individuals.
Telling both new and familiar stories through a Disability Rights lens will change both public perception and artistic practice.
We will also show how capable people with disabilities are as directors, managers, designers, artisans, artists, and more in large-scale professional productions.
Young people with disabilities in this country need positive role models who will tell them that if you are different, if you access the world differently, if you need special accommodations, then the world needs you! They will get to encounter many such role models at NDT.
While many theatres today are working to become accessible for certain disabled audience groups – and every so often a production will hire one or two people with disabilities, we feel this country needs a shining light to show that this isn't enough, and that we can easily be more inclusive.