The JJs List Blog

TimeLine Theatre Makes Accessibility A Priority

Posted by on November 14, 2013 - 3 Comments

TimeLine Theatre

Sheila Fox Tam (right) pictured with Lara Goetsch, Director of Marketing & Communications for Timeline Theatre

TimeLine Theatre sets the stage for a disability-aware theater experience.

As a person who personally struggles with a significant bilateral hearing loss, going out to see a live show often times proves futile when I can only catch fragments of a storyline. During my first experience at TimeLine Theatre over five years ago, I mentioned I was hard of hearing and was immediately escorted to an usher who seated me to a reserved front section where I was told most of the action of the play was going to take place. It was a discreet interaction and after sitting down, I was able to get ahead on the play before it started by reading the ‘Backstory’, a summary offered in the playbill before the start of each play, which offers a brief summary of the play; a timeline of the historical events taking place around the time of the play; and a brief story about how the theater company was inspired to bring the script to life.

The combination of the priority seating and the pre-show reading material allayed my anxieties and proved to be a great success. I left the show with an understanding of the characters, their development, and the main themes of the play. Another helpful feature of the theatre is the interactive exhibit in the lobby, which offers a display of highlights from the show – from newspaper clippings to actual photos of historical figures being portrayed in the play. Most recently TimeLine Theatre has included an interactive component where audience members can write and leave feedback on a bulletin board related to questions from themes of the play.

Timeline Theatre continues to sellout each season and their secret is not only the quality of their material but their integrity to support special needs in the community. It is a community built on diversity both literally and figuratively by connecting past and present social and political issues pertinent to today’s 21st century thinkers. With this in mind, it seems only fitting that the theatre stay committed to addressing ongoing needs of their audience members by maintaining a steady effort to remain accessible to everyone. *Please note all of the exciting changes below culminating this year as the theatre, housed in a 103 year-old church, undergoes a facelift that will give rise to a transformational history that will set the wheels in motion for many other community-based organizations housed in older buildings throughout the neighborhood.

New Accessibility Features (Completed October 2013):

  • Wheelchair elevator at the theatre entrance giving accessibility to both the lower level (restrooms) and the mezzanine level (theatre check-in).
  • Wheelchair lift from the mezzanine to the main theatre level (theatre/theatre lobby).

New Accessibility features (To Be Completed January 2014):

  • Accessible restrooms on the lower level.
  • Accessible aisles & seating in the main theatre.
  • Theatre subscribers: Please inform the theatre company of any accessibility needs and the staff will accommodate in advance of your visit.

Goals for Future Accessibility Improvements (Ongoing):

  • Grant proposal: for assisted listening devices (targeted for implementation January 2014)
  • Theatre escorts to assist with seating: staff is being trained to identify and address patrons with a variety of needs (in progress).
  • Touch Tours: a touch tour is being developed to offer visually impaired patrons a chance to preview the set prior to their theatre attendance (TBD).
  • Open captions: will be displayed ‘ticker style’ on the set (TBD).

Planning your visit:

Location: 615 Wellington Ave., Chicago (inside the Wellington Avenue Church building) near the corner of Wellington/Broadway

Phone: 773-281-8463

Parking: limited street parking on Clark and Broadway and paid lots nearby. There is no validated parking and no valet parking so allow extra time to find parking.

Public Transportation: between 2-3 blocks of both the Belmont (Red, Brown and Purple lines) and Wellington (Brown and Purple lines) train stops. CTA buses #36 (Broadway); #8 (Halsted), #22 (Clark) and #151 (Sheridan) all stop at Wellington within 1-3 blocks of the theatre.

Directions and more details can be found at:

Sheila Fox Tam

About the Author

Sheila Fox Tam is a RYT (registered yoga teacher) and a LMT (licensed massage therapist) at The Wellness Revolution in Evanston. She’s had a hearing loss since the age of 10 in both ears and after years of wearing hearing aids, underwent surgery for a cochlear implant in her left ear.

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Debbie De Palma says:
Nov 15, 2013

I LOVE this post! Hats off to TimeLine Theater for caring about audience members with disabilities, and for taking steps to make their performance space and their productions accessible to people with disabilities.

There is a great need for disability awareness among performing groups of all kinds. People with disabilities want to perform, want to help behind the scenes, and want to be in the audience enjoying performances. In many cases, the accommodations needed for successful inclusion (such as priority seating, as mentioned in the blog post) are not that complicated, but somebody has to make a commitment to get the job done, the way TimeLine Theater has. Such commitment is good for people with disabilities, and good for the bottom line. Thank you!

Gilbert says:
Sep 22, 2014

When I originally commented I appear to have cllicked the -Notify me when new comments are
added- cheeckbox and noow whenever a comment iss added I receive 4 emails with
the same comment. Is there an easy method you can remove me from that service?
Thanks a lot! says:
Sep 25, 2014

constantly i used to read smaller posts which also clear their motive, and that is also happening with this piece of
writing which I am reading at this time.

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