Cinemas are popular places for young people to spend their leisure time. Disabled people make up 12 percent of the cinema-going audience but the experience they get isn’t always the same as their able-bodied peers. Over the winter and spring of 2011, more than 100 Trailblazers went out into their local communities and visited and rated their local major chain and independent cinemas. We wanted to look at the big picture today. How accessible is the cinema industry? The Trailblazers’ investigation uncovered some examples of particularly good and bad practice. The Trailblazers surveyed more than 125 cinemas across the UK and found that the worst access for disabled people was often at the major UK cinema chains.

Our report revealed:

  • One in three of the major chain cinemas has bad or very bad views of the screen from the wheelchair-accessible seating area.
  • More than half of all major chain cinemas have uncomfortable wheelchair accessible seating areas.
  • One third of the major chain cinemas have poor access between the ticket office and the auditorium.
  • One in three of the major chain cinemas has bad or very bad disability awareness among staff.
  • Almost half of independent and major chain cinemas do not offer an online ticket booking service for disabled customers, but had an online ticket booking service for non-disabled customers.

If you are in a wheelchair, you are totally limited to the seats right at the front, which are consistently the worst and most uncomfortable for the neck. If you want any other seats you have to climb up the stairs. The steps are relatively steep and there’s not much to hold on to. I hate them. I have to climb the steps because my friend has epilepsy and can’t be too near the front, so she has to really yank me up each step. It is very tiring, and there isn’t really a designated wheelchair area as I can remember, you just have to sit at the front. I think it’s strange for such a newly-built cinema.

Trailblazers are calling on cinema exhibitors:

  • to work with organisations like Trailblazers to develop solutions to the problems faced by disabled cinema-goers
  • to put accessibility at the heart of the cinema industry and to invest in their disabled customers
  • to ensure all facilities like accessible toilets and lifts are well maintained and, when broken, have them fixed as quickly as possible
  • to come up with intelligent and innovative solutions to accessibility problems
  • to train their staff members in good disability awareness, health and safety laws and customers’ rights
  • to install lifts, banisters and ramps to ensure disabled customers can enjoy a similar experience to their non-disabled peers
  • to think imaginatively and work with architects that have experience of addressing physical access challenges
  • to consult disabled people about seating possibilities, as they know where they want to sit and why
  • to review website booking facilities to ensure that disabled cinema-goers can book both spaces for wheelchairs and carer discounts online
  • to promote the CEA card discount scheme and ensure disabled people are made aware of who qualifies and how they can join.

You can read the most recent report, The Big Picturehere. Trailblazers continues to campaign on improving access to employment. If you are affected by these issues and would like to share your experiences or be a media ambassador, contact us here.

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