Hijinx Theatre creates theatre for actors with and without learning disabilities. The Hijinx mission is to Pioneer, Produce and Promote the work of people with learning disabilities in theatre, film and television. We created a unique Welsh casting platform for over 50 professionally trained actors with Down’s syndrome, Autism, Asperger’s and other learning disabilities.
A huge obstacle faced by Hijinx actors in the UK is that casting sites such as Spotlight require professional qualifications to list an actor. These qualifications can be inaccessible to people with learning disabilities. Even if they were able to join the mainstream casting sites, learning disabled actors may require additional support which would be difficult to communicate with the limited fields provided. This makes it even harder for actors with learning disabilities to find paid professional work.
In spring of 2016, Hijinx was one of nine successful arts organisations to receive funding through NESTA and Arts Council Wales’ Digital Innovation for the Arts in Wales (DIFAW) and they asked us to work with them to create a site that would address these issues.
It was really important to us that the site should be usable by the actors themselves. So we approached the design of the site with cognitive accessibility in mind, this meant clear headings, simple navigation and easy-to-understand filtering. As filters are selected, they are presented to the users as a simple sentence. For example:
We made the decision to allow actors to be filtered by impairments – that is to say, “show me actors with Aspergers” or any other of the 13 impairments the site covers. This decision came out of a lot of conversation about whether Hijinx actors should be defined by their impairments. Ultimately it was decided that casting agents could quite reasonably be looking for an actor to play a character with Down’s Syndrome.
Actors’ individual pages are presented with a personal statement, an introductory video and a gallery of images. We list their credits, physical characteristics and details of training they’ve received along with the actor’s impairments and the personalised support Hijinx will be able to provide.