True Stories: Jenny Spinak – Never thought I would end up working at Sydney Opera!

Jenny SpinakI never thought when I undertook my social work degree that I would end up working at Sydney Opera House one day.

In 2006, after spending many years working in the disability sector with both adults and children, I began working as Sydney Opera House’s Program Manager, Accessibility. The role was created as part of Sydney Opera House’s commitment to improving disability access.

My role involves managing the House’s accessibility program by overseeing its auxiliary access services and facilities, conducting regular staff awareness training, providing advice on physical building upgrades, implementing equitable ticketing policies, upgrading our website’s accessibility and customer access information, as well as creating student internship and employment opportunities.

I also organise live performance experiences for people with disability – through such initiatives as autism-friendly performances, audio-description of the opera, sensory tactile tours and sign-language interpreted performances.

My role allows me to combine my love of the performing arts with my sense that the performing arts should be for everyone in the community.

My background in social work has helped me to attribute notions of social inclusion and equity to our programs, performances, policies and services – as we strive to overcome the many challenges to achieving full accessibility for people with disability.

The importance of making the performing arts accessible to people with disability was highlighted recently when we began focusing our efforts on making our Kids at the House and House: Ed performances more accessible to school groups and families of young theatre goers with disabilities.

A vision support teacher informed me that she had noticed a big difference in the confidence and enthusiasm of her student with a dual sensory impairment, just from her having the opportunity to follow a theatre performance that was Auslan-interpreted, along with a pre-show tactile session with the cast and crew.

The student had really loved her first live performance experience and the teacher told me that the student’s mother had said she would now look out for other performances for her to go and see – which she hasn’t had the confidence to do before. The teacher said that without targeting the performance as accessible the student would never have had the opportunity to experience the theatre.

On another occasion an occupational therapist working with children who are blind told me that it brought a tear to her eye, seeing her young client participating and moving along to the music with the other children at an inclusive Babies Proms performance.

Jenny Spinak

Program Manager, Accessibility

Sydney Opera House


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