To celebrate Disability Awareness Month this October, Lincoln Center is offering two free Verbal Description and Touch Tours to guests who are blind or have low vision. These tours are led by Lincoln Center Tour Guides who are experts in the history, development, and architecture of Lincoln Center, and trained in Verbal Description techniques.

To make Lincoln Center more accessible on tour, the guides use tactile models of the campus, the fountain, and interiors and exteriors of the buildings. These models provide an opportunity for guests to experience a fuller picture of Lincoln Center.

The models were built by Tour Guide Gerri Brioso, who regularly leads Verbal Description Tours when they are offered, and has worked as a Tour Guide at Lincoln Center for three and a half years. I asked her a few questions about the process of leading Verbal Description and Touch Tours.

Katie Fanning: What is your favorite part of leading guided tours at Lincoln Center?

Gerri Brioso: What I love most about being a tour guide is that every tour is different! The wide array of people that I meet on every tour—all ages and all different levels of interests—challenges me to create a tour that not only informs [and] addresses their particular interests, but also builds excitement about all the performing arts and, in particular, experiencing them at Lincoln Center. When the opportunity to train and give tours to guests with low or no vision came up, I jumped at the chance to take on this additional challenge to giving tours, the challenge of helping my blind/low vision guests understand, envision, and navigate Lincoln Center and how it relates to the performing arts that many have been experiencing for years.

KF: How did you create the tactile models? What purpose do they serve?

GB: During my Verbal [Description] Touch Tour training, I shadowed a touch tour at the Whitney Museum. The guide described each painting in detail to help create a picture in the mind's eye, but when a three-dimensional depiction of the painting was handed to the guests, their faces lit up. Being able to touch what was being described really brought the painting to life for them. That's when I realized 3D models would greatly enhance the verbal description tour experiences of our guests at Lincoln Center. Interior and exterior models complement the verbal descriptions and help complete the visualization for our guests. The Lincoln Center campus model in particular has increased their understanding of the overall layout and many have said they're now less fearful of navigating from one building to another.

KF: What sort of adaptations do you make when describing a tour for people who are blind or have low vision?

GB: A tour of Lincoln Center includes history, introductions to the 11 organizations on campus, and information about the performing arts. For guests with low or no vision, description of the physical environment is a must, not only the beauty of the overall campus and each building's interior, but also the size, the shapes, the materials, and more.

KF: Have you learned anything new about Lincoln Center by leading Verbal Description tours?

GB: Being a born and bred New Yorker, Lincoln Center has always been part of my life. Giving Verbal Description Tours made me take a more focused, detailed look at it, especially in building the models. I suddenly focused on some of the details and nuances I knew were there, but never really thought about! For instance, the interior walls and ceiling of the auditorium in David Geffen Hall—I always knew there were both wide and narrow pieces of the wall with varying depths, but having to reproduce it in a model made me recognize there was a precise pattern which, in turn, prompted me to research why it was this particular pattern and how it related to the overall acoustics. The information I uncovered is now used in all my tours and my guests really seam to appreciate it!

Free Verbal Description and Touch Tours are available at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, October 3, and 12:00 pm on Saturday, October 6. Tours are free, but registration is required. To register, please call Accessibility at 212.875.5375 or fill out this form.

In addition to the free Verbal Description and Touch Tours, Lincoln Center is offering live Audio Description for two performances of the White Light Festival's presentation of Waiting for Godot for guests who are blind or have low vision. Audio Description is available on Monday, November 5, at 7:30 pm and Saturday, November 10, at 2:00 pm, and can be accessed from any seat in the house. After purchasing tickets, guests can contact Accessibility at Lincoln Center to reserve their complimentary earpiece receiver. Tickets are available at the Alice Tully Hall Box Office, over the phone at 212.721.6500, or online here: Waiting for Godot Performances.

For more information about adapted tours, audio description, or accessibility, call Accessibility at Lincoln Center at 212.875.5375 or email [email protected].

Guests interested in more information about Lincoln Center's Guided Tour Program can feel free to reach out to [email protected] or 212.875.5350.

Katie Fanning is Temporary Assistant Manager, Accessibility and Guest Services, at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.