Imagine a Friday afternoon with the weekend ever approaching, you have been looking forward to a nice evening with friends all planning to go to the cinema to watch the latest release. As the hours pass the excitement builds and the conversation flows about the expectations of the different actors and actresses as well as the controversial story line. That all important question of what flavour popcorn to go for and how extortionate it is to pay for snacks. You are already first in the queue so you have no risk of missing the film but then when you get into the screen you realise that the only place you can sit is inches away from the 70ft wide screen. Not only do you realise that you are going to the leave the cinema with a bad neck (looking up for 2 hours) but you have also ruined the experience for your friends because they would like to sit next to you. I can tell you that is a very bad but a very common experience unfortunately, especially for wheelchair users.
Let’s imagine another scenario where you have been dating someone for a few weeks and fancied taking them out to a film. So you plan everything, book tickets and get ready to enjoy each other’s company during the film only to realise that they are nearly a meter away from you. Any kind of romance that there may have been between you or you may have been looking forward to can disappear in the distance.
All these experiences help you appreciate the cinemas that do take people with disabilities into consideration, for example the Hatfield Odeon. I always know that if I go to Hatfield cinema I can sit comfortably in my wheelchair with my friends beside me and have an enjoyable view of the film as oppose to most Vue cinemas that I have been to. If I fancied making a comment about how poor the twist in the plot is then I can simply lean over to my friend and share my thoughts like other people in the cinema. It also helps if I fancy a bit of popcorn and prevents whoever I am with from getting up off their seats to pass me some.
In my experience it is usually the little things that get overlooked when the wheelchair bays are organised in cinemas. Whether it is being placed right in front of the screen or having a divider between you and your friends, all of these little things can affect your enjoyment and confidence when going to the cinema. I believe that those who have a disability should not be forced to travel a further distance because the local cinema has not provided an equal experience. Everyone should be able to pop to the local cinema out of the blue and have a choice of where they want to sit without having to leave half way through the film because they cannot look up any more to the screen that is right in front of them. Where other people that are more able might have the opportunity to go to a later viewing in order to find better seats, people that are in wheelchairs unfortunately do not always have the option.
There have been occasions where I have decided to sit next to my friends instead of the designated wheelchair area only to be forced to move back as I was being regarded a health and safety hazard. It is also important to remember that not everyone is comfortable in sitting at the front of a big crowd of people just in case their spasms and movement effect other people’s enjoyment.
The question of choice for people with disabilities should not be overlooked when thinking of the cinema experience and often it is the small changes that can really help improve the situation. Whether it is bad customer service or a bad view, it is always good to know The Trailblazers can help you have a voice.