Disabled While Going to the Theater

For a few years now, I’ve had a subscription to the Broadway tour series here in Pittsburgh, which means that I’ve seen quite a few shows by now! I saw Company over the weekend (and loved it!), and when I posted a story to Instagram, someone replied asking about accessibility at shows. Inspiration hit, and I thought I’d share what it’s like for me to be disabled while going to the theater in Pittsburgh.

For me, seeing theater shows in Pittsburgh has been a great experience overall. For me, the accessibility option I care about the most is seat location! Since I can’t use a standard theater seat and stay in my wheelchair, I’m limited to the spaces in the theater that are wheelchair accessible. In Pittsburgh, the two theaters I go to most – the Benedum and Heinz Hall – both have wheelchair accessible seat options in the front, middle, and back of the orchestra (floor) seating. Neither of the theaters have wheelchair accessible seating in the balcony levels, but the elevator does go to those levels, so if you were able to transfer out of your chair, it could still work for you.

I personally love my front-row seats at the Benedum that I’m guaranteed with my series subscription (and that I never want to give up now!), but I’m also really glad there are options in the middle and back, too. Tickets to shows can get pretty expensive, and you shouldn’t have to spend a fortune just to see a show if you need wheelchair accessible seats! Having options spread throughout help make it financially accessible in addition to wheelchair accessible, too.

If I could design my ideal theater, though, I would add some accessible seats in the balcony, for even more options, and I’d add more accessible seats in the middle of the theater. (Well – I’d add more accessible seats everywhere, but I’d start with those places!) Since my sister and I both use wheelchairs, if we don’t want to sit in the very front or very back, we have to split up, because there aren’t spaces for multiple wheelchairs in the middle of the orchestra. I also avoid the Byham theater if at ALL possible, because the only accessible seats in the theater are in the back of the orchestra section.

For me, once the tickets are secured, the process is smooth! The Benedum has a separate accessible entrance where you can avoid the long entry lines (and metal detectors, which I can’t use), which is super helpful for me. My seats in the front of the theater are actually not the typical folding chair seats, but are standalone seats (just a small section for accessible seating), and the ushers have always been extremely kind and helpful in making sure the seats are set up as they’re supposed to be. There’s even a single-stall accessible restroom on the main floor for easy access that’s nice and spacious.

Seeing musicals and plays is one of my absolute favorite things to do, and I’m so glad that the theaters in Pittsburgh are inclusive and make it easy for me!

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