Kalaiyarasi D, B. Optom

Optometrist, Sankara Nethralaya, Chennai, India


Dance in all forms is always a visual treat for the audience. Right from the costumes, the swift, elegant movements and the emotive expressions of the dancers, everything about a dance performance is a blissful experience to watch. It is of great wonder if this experience can be reached to the visually impaired people by any means. This article explores the available methods for the visually impaired to experience this art form.

Audio Description (AD) is a method commonly used in theatre productions in which the plot is provided in a pre-recorded or live audio format and made available in headphones or audio sets for the visually impaired audience. The ADs provide the visually impaired with precise details of the movements, the colours of costumes, the emotions expressed, and an overall narration of the performance without giving any leading interpretations of the narrator. (1)

While ADs are used during the show, Haptic Access Tours are another form which occurs prior to the show. The audience can run through a small tour to get them familiarized with the setting of the dance studio, the costumes, the properties and sometimes the performers themself showing some dance movements or striking a dance pose using tactile cues. (1)

Figure 1: Research project named translations.
Picture courtesy: Martin Borden via https://dancesinternational.org/translations-research-project-blind-partially-sighted-viewers/

A research project named Translations,(2) which looks into giving the visually impaired the experience of this art form, utilized a guide who stood behind their visually impaired partner and signed the movements and positions of the dancers by signing it over their back. Further, the performance happened in a quiet atmosphere giving more importance to the sound of movements. It also involved the performers to introduce themself and describe their moves and narrate as they dance, thus combining the concept of ADs and tactile cues.

Figure 2: The foundation of community dance
Picture courtesy: People Dancing- the foundation for community dance via https://www.communitydance.org.uk/DB/animated-library/visually-impaired-dancers-in-bangalore?ed=29520

As we think of getting the dance to reach them, it is of great inspiration that there are visually impaired dancers across the globe who learn and perform dance.(3,4)The dance movements are taught by sensory cues like touch to feel the flow of movement of the teacher and auditory cues like sounds of the tapping foot, body movement of fellow dancers  to understand the  space and dimensions of the stage. Various dance workshops are also conducted by professional dancers for visually impaired people of all age groups and have got very positive feedback. Dance invariably seems to boost the confidence level and independence of these dancers.(3,5)

It is understood that tactile and auditory cues are of predominant importance for both the visually impaired audience and performers. Refining the methods of ADs and haptic tours, new techniques can be developed involving these sensory aspects and incorporated in all dance performances to enable accessibility to dance among the visually impaired.



  1. Curtis, J. (2019, March 21). Describing dances: Increasing access for blind and visually impaired audiences. Dancers Group. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://dancersgroup.org/2019/03/describing-dances-increasing-access-for-blind-and-visually-impaired-
  2. Brand, N., Kirkland, S., & Uchelen, C. V. (2021, February 1). Translations – a research project for blind and partially sighted viewers. Dance International Magazine. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://danceinternational.org/translations-research-project-blind-partially-sighted-viewers/
  3. Venkatesh, S. (2012). Visually impaired dancers in Bangalore [web log]. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://www.communitydance.org.uk/DB/animated-library/visually-impaired-dancers-in-bangalore?ed=29520#.
  4. Solomon, S. (2018, May 17). How to convey dance to those without sight? all hands on. The New York Times. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/17/arts/dance/mina-hashimoto-dance-for-the-visually-impaired.html
  5. Willings, C. (n.d.). Dance adaptations for students who are blind or visually impaired. Teaching Students with Visual Impairments. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://www.teachingvisuallyimpaired.com/dance.html