The Cinema Exhibitors’ Association has announced changes to its popular CEA Card disability scheme, whereby cardholders can get a free ticket for another person to accompany them to participating cinemas.

The scheme, which is open to anyone claiming Disability Living Allowance or who is registered blind, has been in existence since 2004. Set up to bring greater consistency to a wide range of disability-related schemes run by the sector, it now involves the majority of UK cinema companies.

The key changes to the scheme are:

  • the introduction of a standard set of terms and conditions setting out the purpose of the card and some basic guidelines for its use; and
  • a reduction in the lifetime of the card from three years to one year.

The new terms and conditions will apply to all cardholder and participating cinemas from 1 March 2009. All successful new applications from that date will also be issued with the new one year card.

Explaining the reason behind the changes, CEA Chief Executive Phil Clapp said:

“There is little doubt that the scheme is hugely popular with disabled customers and has also made life much simpler for box office staff at participating cinemas. For that reason alone, there is no question of cinemas lessening their support.

However, in the five years that the card has been in operation, that very popularity has meant that the number of issues around its use has increased. I am sure that everyone will understand our wish to set some basic ground rules for those using the card, and for participating cinemas. That way we can ensure that as many of those who are eligible as possible can benefit and that we discourage the very small number of individuals who might wish to misuse the scheme.”

Turning to the decision to reduce the period of validity of the card, he added:

“We have only come to this decision after a great deal of thought. The truth is that the current scheme would allow someone receiving Disability Living Allowance for a matter of weeks to benefit from the card for the full three years. Reducing the lifetime of the card to one year addresses this issue.

We believe that following these changes the scheme will remain a popular and valuable one.”

Further details of the planned changes can be found on both the CEA Card website.