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Big cinema chains fail their screen test

Big cinema chains fail their screen test
25th August 2011 developer

Disabled cinema-goers are still facing discrimination at the hands of major cinema chains, according to the results of an investigation by young campaigners.

Members of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s Trailblazers network of young disabled campaigners surveyed 125 independent and chain venues across the UK.

Their Big Picture report concludes that practice is improving, particularly at independent cinemas and the smaller chains, but many of the cinemas run by major chains are still providing a second-class service.

The report says that it tends to be the smaller companies “who take the time to work with, listen to and invest in the adjustments needed by disabled people”.

Problems encountered in the survey included uncomfortable viewing areas, inaccessible auditoriums and refreshments areas, poor disability awareness among staff, broken lifts, heavy doors and poor lighting.

At some cinemas, it was impossible to enter the venue at all because there was no accessible entrance.

One in three venues run by the major chains offered poor or very poor views of the screen from its wheelchair-accessible spaces, while a similar number employed staff with poor or very poor disability awareness.

But among independent cinemas, 96 per cent provided good or very good views from their wheelchair-accessible areas, with eight out of ten having good or very good staff disability awareness.

And at almost half of the cinemas surveyed, it was impossible in practice to buy tickets online, because the website had no facility to book a free ticket for a personal assistant or carer through the industry’s national card scheme.

The Trailblazers have now produced a 10-point charter describing the access and services that disabled cinema-goers should be able to expect.

Trailblazer Tanvi Vyas, who is leading the campaign, said: “We hope that this charter will help to raise the bar on accessibility standards at cinemas and encourage cinema operators to think more progressively about their disabled customers.”

The Trailblazers have also launched a petition, which will be presented in October to MPs and peers on the all party parliamentary group for young disabled people.