disability and access

July 12, 2012


The cinema exhibition sector has already achieved a great deal in ensuring that cinemas are a welcoming and accessible environment for people with disabilities. Many changes made by exhibitors in this regard pre-empted and indeed went further than the requirements placed on cinemas, and others providing goods, facilities or services to the public, by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, now superceded by the Equality Act 2010.


The Association and its members continue to discuss and develop approaches around disability and access. These considerations are informed by the CEA’s Disability Working Group, comprising representatives of the key circuits and equipment manufacturers as well as those groups representing people with disabilities.


In 2007, the CEA issued to all members the fourth edition of its ‘Best Practice Guidelines for the Provision of Services to Disabled Customers and the Employment of Disabled People’. Produced in consultation with a wide array of relevant stakeholders, this document set out a comprehensive view not just of the requirements placed on cinema owners and operators by legislation, but also advice and ideas on a comprehensive range of operational issues.


Further copies of this  - revised and updated most recently in April 2012 - are available on request from the CEA office. This is how you can contact us.


The CEA Card is the national concessionary card developed by the Association to allow people with disabilities to obtain one free ticket for a person accompanying them to the cinema. Around 90 per cent of UK cinemas now support the scheme, ranging from the large national chains to smaller independent operators.


Further details on the scheme can be found on the CEA Card website here. (This site may open in a new window).


From numbers of applications and feedback, the scheme seems to be popular both with disabled people and representative organisations.


Cinemas continue to be proactive in seeking to address the needs of customers with particular access needs. By mid 2012, around 80 per cent of UK cinema sites were now equipped with digital cinema equipment, meaning that they had the capability to screen subtitled films. The number of subtitled film screenings per week now stands at around 1,000. 


The ongoing digitisation of the UK cinema sector, now well-underway, should see these numbers accelerate further.


There is also increasing interest amongst cinema operators in addressing the needs of other disabled members of the community, such as those with autism spectrum disorders.


There are a number of resources around cinema and access which people with disabilities might find useful.


With funding from the industry body Cinema First, the listings service at www.yourlocalcinema.com has continued to provide a vital source of weekly information on local screenings of subtitled and audio-described films. According to the monitoring undertaken by yourlocalcinema.com, by early 2010, UK cinemas were showing around 2,200 subtitled screenings of films per month, over six times the figure recorded for 2003. Here is a link to the yourlocalcinema.com website. (This site may open in a new window).


The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) offers information about audio description services in cinemas, on DVD, on digital television and in theatres. Here is a link to the RNIB website. (This site may open in a new window).


In taking forward its work on disabilty and access, the CEA also works closely with a number of other representative organisations, including Action on Hearing Loss and the National Deaf Children's Society.