Ritz Theatre Company
I. Organizational BackgroundThe Ritz Theatre Company offers challenging and diverse professional productions and quality on-stage training which nurtures aspiring actors at every level. Housed in an historic theatre building, the Ritz is a creative partnership of theatrical artists and audiences; outreach programs use the power of live theatre to educate and inform residents of the Delaware Valley. At the Ritz realistic education of the young artist is of utmost importance. Through doing and studying we meet our goals.
The Ritz produces 6 mainstage productions a year. Each production is staffed with professional directors, designers, choreographers, technicians and musicians. In addition, 10 children's show are produced, a summer camp program, workshops and various special events. We also tour the state with out-reach efforts both with children's and adult programming.
II. Organizational Policies and Practices.The Ritz Theatre Company does not discriminate on the basis of disability in admission to access to, treatment of or employment in, its services, programs or activities. Upon request, accommodation will be provided to allow individuals with disabilities to participate in Ritz Theatre Company services, programs and activities.
The Ritz Theatre Company has a designated coordinator to facilitate compliance with the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), as required by Section 35.107 of the U.S. Department of Justice regulations, and to coordinate compliance with Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. This is facilitated by regular sensitivity training sessions with staff and volunteers and close work with the ADA Self-Assessment Survey and Planning Tool by the ADA designated coordinator.
The Board of Directors oversees the Employment practice, assuring that ADA and Non-Discrimination policies are followed. The plan is designed to remove barriers, whether programmatic or physical, which inhibit the full participation of people with disabilities. As a part of the plan, The Ritz Theatre Company will continue to educate its board, employees and volunteers by offering free training workshops in sensitization to persons with disabilities. We consider the theatre our "home". We embrace the philosophy that our patrons are our "guests" and therefore, accessibility is of the utmost importance. We place great importance on being ADA compliant and work to insure that our initiatives are utilized and known to all who pass through our doors.
The Ritz was built in 1927 to enchant theatregoers with vaudeville. Through the years it had gone through many changes, but not until 1985, when it was taken over by The Ritz Theatre Company, had it seen any effort to become accessible to people with disabilities. Without outside support, and with its own funds, The Ritz Theatre Company began to effect changes that allow accessibility to the people with disabilities. Now, as funding has opened up, we continue to improve ourselves, our facility, and our programming. The challenge that we face, however, is the day-to-day continuance of these initiatives and the age and Historical significance of the Building. We strive to incorporate verbiage and symbols into our marketing materials. We strive to continually improve our theatre which is a barrier free venue both for employment and attendance to all programming. We strive to incorporate sensitivity in all that we do, from programs, to marketing to facility accessibility. Consistency is our greatest challenge due to the continual struggle for funding and budgetary challenges. As we eliminate employees, cut back on production costs and put more and more responsibility on the remaining people involved, the overload may cause a slip in the amount of attention to our ADA plan and offerings.
The creation of this New Plan, has forced us to look at our work, reevaluate it and improve it for all.
III. Grievance ProcedureThe Ritz Theatre Company is committed to both the spirit and the letter of the law of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Accordingly, it desires to resolve all ADA-related informal complaints and formal grievances in a reasonable, orderly and expeditious fashion. Therefore, the following grievance procedure is established to affect this policy.
Step One: When a patron has an ADA-related complaint, it will be brought to the attention of the House Manager on duty who will attempt to resolve it within the limits of his/her authority. If this does not occur, the patron will be referred to this Procedure, which will be conspicuously posted in the lobby area, and be advised of his/her rights to initiate a formal grievance.
Step Two: When a patron desires to file a formal grievance, the Producing Artistic Director/ADA Coordinator will meet with the patron. Such meeting will be at a reasonable time/place convenient to a patron with disabilities. The purpose of the meeting is to assist the patron in preparing a written description of the perceived violation of ADA requirements. The meeting is to be conducted in a positive fact-finding/problem-solving fashion and not in an adversarial fashion. The written grievance will include the following data: 1. The patron's name, address, and telephone number. 2. A detailed description of what is perceived as a violation. This will include, as applicable, who was involved, where and when it happened (time/place). 3. What the patron believes should be done to resolve the problem. After the above written grievance is developed, a copy will be given to the patron and a copy sent to the President of the Ritz Board of Trustees. The Producing Artistic Director/ADA Coordinator will conduct any further investigation that may be warranted and will advise the patron of his/her decision in writing within 30 days from the date of the formal grievance. If an extension of this time is required, the patron will be so advised in writing. In the decision the patron will be advised that he/she has a right to appeal this decision to the Grievance Committee (Step Three) and if there is no appeal within 30 days the decision will be final and the matter considered resolved. A copy of the decision will be sent to the President of the Board of Trustees.
Step Three: The members of the Grievance Committee are: The Producing Artistic Director/ADA Coordinator and two Board members designated by the President of the Board of Trustees. They will meet to consider any appeal of the Step Two decision. Other staff members of the Ritz may attend if their expertise is required but they are not to vote on the decision. The patron may meet with the Committee personally, as he/she may elect, and explain why the matter remains unresolved. The Grievance committee will prepare a findings and decision letter. The decision should take into account the following considerations: validity of the complaint, what circumstances created the condition, were these standard or unusual conditions, should policy be revised or a new policy established, mitigating factors, resources needed to resolve the problem. This decision will be sent to the patron and will become an agenda item for the next full Board of Trustees meeting. The matter will then be concluded unless implementation, funding, follow-up or similar issues cause it to remain open. If the patron desires periodic updates, they will be provided until the matter is then concluded.
IV Accomplishments and Milestones• Received a 2010 PNC grant to present a shadow interpreted performance of Spamalot and document the process to use as a marketing tool to the deaf community and a "How To" documentary for other theatres and possible airing on PBS stations.
• Installed an automatic door opener for our guests with wheelchairs walkers and other mobility aids, during our 2010 Cultural Trust Door Renovation Project.
• Installed new seating in 2009 creating new wheelchair accessibility through out auditorium.
• Recognized by National Arts and Disability Center in Los Angeles as a leader in the field by offering Shadow Interpreting.
• Engaged an ADA Consultant, with a personnel background, to aid the organization to continue our efforts to create a barrier free environment and programming.
• A grievance plan was adopted and disseminated to staff and Board and prominently displayed in our Box Office.
• Curb cut outs accomplished at cross walks by theatre during recent Street Scapes Project.
• The staff has regular sensitivity training included in all bi-weekly meetings
• Added a regulation bathroom for our guests in wheelchairs. We already created a downstairs bathroom to accommodate guests with walkers and who are unable to use the second floor bathrooms.
• Funding raised from private donor towards the purchase of infrared hearing and listening device.
• Building Committee adopts NJ Arts Access Task Force ADA Self-Assessment Survey and Planning Tool as an official document for all renovations and Historic Preservation issues. The ADA Surveyor, as provided by our County Agency and Easter Seals, has proved to be a valuable assessment tool.
• Received permission and the township instituted one parking spot for our guests in wheelchairs on the state highway which runs in front of the Theatre.
V In Process• We are currently establishing an Advisory Committee made up of persons with disabilities, local officials, a Board member and staff. This Committee will also serve as our Grievance Committee, replacing current membership.
• Installing a chair lift to help make second floor accessible for employee purposes.
• Funding is being sought for all accessibility issues.
• Working with the Deaf - Hearing Communication Center and Access for the Arts to reach and inform the Deaf Community of our work with shadow interpreting.
• New Marketing plan to include all ADA information on all press releases, brochures and web site.