Columbus Children's Theatre Adds Special-Needs Services

Julanne Hohbach

Columbus Children’s Theatre has long offered separate shows for audience members with sensory-related issues. Now, the theater company is enhancing its programming to serve patrons with other special needs.

In addition to continuing its well-known Sensory Friendly Performances series, now in its eighth season, CCT has added audio descriptions, Touch Tours and large print playbills for audience members. Additionally, ASL interpretation, offered previously on a request-only basis, now will be part of the regular lineup.

Courtney Cooke, director of theatre education, said the motivation for the expanded offerings was to make CCT more welcoming and inclusive. “We believe that theater should be accessible for every family and every child,” she said.

Children on the autism spectrum and those with sensory-processing disorders are the primary audience for the Sensory Friendly Performances series. Typically, CCT offers one or two of these special shows for each mainstage production, though this season’s “Peter Pan” will not because of its shorter, three-day run, Cooke said. These performances tone down the noise level, leave lights on and allow patrons to get up and move around as needed.

The new audio description service and Touch Tours are possible thanks to a one-year grant from PNC Arts Alive, Cooke said. CCT is currently borrowing equipment from CAPA for the former, which uses personal hearing devices to describe what’s happening onstage to those with hearing impairments. Pre-show Touch Tours allow patrons to explore the performance space, costumes and props and meet several actors and creative team members.

ASL interpretation, audio descriptions and Touch Tours will be available for all remaining 2018-19 mainstage shows. While the tours are geared toward those with visual impairments, they are open to all patrons, Cooke said. Large print playbills will be offered for mainstage shows as well as Theatre for the Very Young events.

The new initiatives launched with an Oct. 27 performance of “Dracula.” “We had great feedback about the touch tour,” Cooke said.

Special-performance dates for the remainder of the 2018-19 season, which continues in December with “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” should be finalized in early November, Cooke said. Check CCT’s website or call the ticket office to find a show that features the accommodations your group needs. For more information, go to All accessibility services are included in the standard ticket cost.

For more information about Sensory Friendly Performances, go to