KARINA Jones has an extensive range of theatre, television and radio credits to her name and is an international aerial circus performer and trained belly dancer to boot.

If that diversity were not sufficiently impressive already, Karina is visually impaired, with a degenerative sight condition that began to take effect when she was 13.

She is associate director of Invisible Flash Theatre Company and works as a visually impaired access consultant for many companies, most notably Graeae and Ramps On The Moon; she trained for the 2012 Paralympics Opening Ceremony team in London, and you may recall her belly dancing for the world’s media outside 10 Downing Street to highlight disability rights issues.

All this is by way of a preamble to Karina's appearance in York next week, starring in The Original Theatre Company’s revival of Frederick Knott’s 1966 thriller Wait Until Dark on tour at the Theatre Royal from Tuesday.

She will play the lead role – the one that Audrey Hepburn took in the 1967 film that brought her Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress – in the story of Susy, a blind woman left alone in her apartment. Amid the social turbulence of 1960s' London, Susy becomes the victim of an elaborate scam hatched by a group of conmen. Forced to fend for herself, she must find a way to turn the tables on the conmen and give them a taste of life in the dark.

"I was originally recommended for the role by Peter Rowe, the artistic director of the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich, so I auditioned...and then they auditioned every other visibly impaired actor, and I didn't hear from the company ages as Alastair [director Alastair Whatley] realises the importance of a good cast and always takes his time," Karina recalls.

"It was a couple of months before I knew I'd got it. Put it down to experience! I'd done three auditions by that time. They asked me how I'd manage on stage, but I've done fencing before as well as being an aerial circus performer."

Karina notes how "it's not a lack of talent in the pool of disabled actors, it's the lack of opportunities that can stop us". "The fact that this has happened, that I've got this role, everyone is thinking, 'oh, a blind person is doing that', but I think, 'why not', just like why shouldn't Mat Fraser be Richard III for Northern Broadsides earlier this year? Why shouldn't I be Susan? It's acting. It's a suspension of disbelief!"

Karina can neither read nor read Braille. "I have to learn lines from playing recorded voices, and then in rehearsals sighted actors will normally have scripts in their hand for the first couple of weeks and I'll have an earpiece in, though in this case, because it's such a big part, I had the earpiece for three weeks, and a support worker would be there to feed me lines through the earpiece."

Karina admits to finding learning lines "quite difficult". "I still try to visualise the lines as I'm still a visual learner and so I find it difficult to get off the book," she says. "Everyone thinks I must have an amazing memory but I have to work really hard at it."

York Press:

Oliver Mellor and Karina Jones in Wait Until Dark

When her degenerative eye condition started as she entered her teens, she took it in her stride. "People think it must have been traumatic for me, but it wasn't. Children deal with it better and my parents took a lot of pressure off me too," she says. "The time I found it difficult was when I left home and went to Liverpool University to do drama."

Nevertheless, Karina later studied at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and, most importantly, on Graeae's eight-week course, The Missing Piece, at Sadler's Wells. "That was an amazing experience because it was specialist training and very intense," Karina recalls.

"So it's not the impairment but the lack of accessibility to the mainstream world that is a problem, as there are so many things that could make it easier for a visually impaired or deaf person or a wheelchair user.

"Accessibility to print is another frustration; I rely on audiobooks and there are a lot of books that aren't available; likewise plenty of plays are difficult to get hold of in audio versions, especially new ones. Surely there must be a way to make more print available, like for those who have a macular degenerative condition."

In Wait Until Dark, Susy lost her eyesight six months earlier in a car crash. "She's trying to come to terms with that; she's got married in that time, so there a lot of changes and a lot of training for her," says Karina. "It's a piece very much of its time; she's a 1960s' housewife, listening to her husband who's trying to make her more able to get around. She's relied on him, and now, when she becomes the victim of the scam, she must rely on her own strengths."

Karina must do likewise when performing each new production. "I learn the layout of the stage; I go around it with the support worker pointing out different things to me in rehearsals, where I become familiar with where everything is, and as I get more comfortable with it, it's naturally reflected in my performance," she says.

Wait Until Dark runs at York Theatre Royal, November 21 to 25, 7.30pm, plus 2pm Thursday and 2.30pm Saturday matinees. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk