Trailblazers challenge local cinema’s disability policy

Published Date
Reason Digital
Judith and Laura Nerry with Justine Greening MP

Disabled twin sisters Laura and Judith Merry’s trip to the cinema was ruined by staff who branded them as “fire risks” and insisted they move because of their limited mobility. The twins who are both Trailblazers from Buckinghamshire have muscular dystrophy and use powered wheelchairs. They are both disabled Odeon Cinema card holders and have always been given the option of either staying in their wheelchair or transferring to a seat, which they have done without problem on many occasions.

Trailblazer Laura Merry at the launch at ParliamentDuring this particular visit, they were told to move to the front row seats, after they were already seated causing both embarrassment and disruption to everyone, because they would take too long to transfer out of their seat in the event of a fire. The twins were forced to sit next to the fire exit in the front row resulting in painful necks for the girls, made even worse by the weakness in their muscles due to their muscular dystrophy.

 Last month, Laura and Judith became ambassadors at the launch of Trailblazers the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s new young campaigners’ network whereby young disabled people fight against discrimination, and campaign to improve local services.

Commenting on her experience, Laura Merry said:

“Every time I have gone to the cinema, both in the UK and abroad, I have always transferred from my wheelchair without any issue being made transferring from a wheelchair to a seat is normal practice in many older theatres.

“When I booked my tickets I explained that we would like to transfer from our wheelchair and was told by staff that this would be fine. Both my sister and I were given the option of where we would like to sit. To be branded as a “fire risk” and made to move while out with my family, was extremely embarrassing. In this day and age being treated in this way is completely unacceptable.

“Due to me being in a wheelchair I unfortunately face obstacles which are not of my making every day. As I am a very positive person I always try to overcome them. The cinema provides me with an opportunity to have fun and chill so I like to go as often as I can. To have a barrier placed in my way was a great disappointment. It now makes me think twice of whether I want to go to the cinema.

“Luckily enough, I am one of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s Trailblazers ambassedors. As part of this role I plan to take this issue up with my local MP, the press and other disability groups, and to start a campaign to ensure improved access to leisure facilities for disabled people.

“I met with the Minister for Disabled people, Anne McGuire MP, last month and the first step in my campaign will be to take the matter up with her.”

Supporting Laura’s call for better services, Philip Butcher, Chief Executive of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, said:

“Young disabled people should have the same rights as anyone else to enjoy trips to everyday places like the cinema. Discriminating against the girls on these grounds is the same as discriminating against others with limited mobility. Whatever next – forcing all heavily pregnant women and the elderly people to sit by the fire exits?

“I’m delighted that Laura and her sister have decided to take up this issue as part of Trailblazers, which is what the project is all about. The girls have the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s full support.”

Find out more about Trailblazers campaigns.

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