Theatre accessibility app GalaPro has been acquired by The Shubert Organization, strengthening the Broadway powerhouse's mission to increase accessibility on Broadway and at regional theatres across the country. The move, finalized in November 2021, follows a close relationship between the two companies, with the Shuberts offering the app for its Broadway theatres in 2018.
The app offers theatregoers accessibility services, including closed captioning and audio description, on-demand via their personal smartphone.
Audience members with hearing loss can use the app to view captions directly on their smartphone, with the app using a dimmed screen and a carefully chosen color scheme so as not to distract other audience members. In many cases, the app is able to pair the production's script with speech recognition software hooked into actors' microphones so that GalaPro's captions can stay in sync with the live performance without necessitating a dedicated operator. The captioning functionality also opens up productions to audience members who don't speak the native language, with the option of offering captions in a variety of languages.
GalaPro also offers audio description services, intended for theatregoers with vision impairments, that are delivered via headphones.
Though theatres have been able to offer similar services via rented equipment owned and operated by the theatre, GalaPro is the first of its kind to offer these services on-demand on individuals' own devices. This makes it far easier—and cheaper—for theatres to implement, which could potentially lead to a dramatically wider array of theatre companies being able to offer performances accessible to audience members with hearing and visual impairments.
"The Shubert Organization has been a champion of the GalaPro App since its inception," says Shubert Senior Vice President of Ticketing David Andrews. "We’re proud to be able to take this one-of-a kind technology to new heights in our theatres and around the world."
To ensure the app benefits as many people as possible, The Shubert Organization consulted an advisory committee made up of representatives from the Hearing Loss Association of America, National Association for the Deaf, Association for Late Deafened Adults, National Foundation for the Blind, American Council for the Blind, Theatre Development Fund, and Hands On. The app was honored with the Sapolin Accessibility Award for Communication and Technology from the New York City Mayor's office in 2018.
GalaPro was founded in Israel in 2015 by Dr. Elena Listen and Hagai Pipko. Though somewhat theatre-focused, the app can also be used with film screenings and other live entertainment experiences. GalaPro is already in use at more than 80 theatres in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and Australia, and is available for free from the iPhone App Store and Google Play.