In light of recent media coverage, the CEA has today issued the following statement on cinema accessibility:
“UK cinema operators welcome feedback from all disabled customers on what more they might reasonably do to improve the cinema-going experience.
That said, in many respects, the UK cinema sector is world-leading in terms of its recognition of the needs of disabled customers, with continual and significant investment in improving the physical environment for mobility-impaired members of the audience, as well as in the provision of support for those with a sensory impairment.
The Cinema Exhibitors’ Association has a longstanding working group to consider the barriers experienced by disabled cinema-goers. Members of the group include representatives from all of the major cinema exhibitors as well as several independent cinemas, distributors, disability charities and specialist disability advisers.
Supported by this group, the CEA has recently distributed revised guidelines to its members on providing services to disabled customers. These give advice on best practice around accessibility and identify the key considerations that those building or operating cinemas need to bear in mind at each stage of the customer journey. They also advise on the legislative and regulatory framework that applies to the sector, in particular the 2010 Equality Act, as well as on the emergency evacuation of disabled people.
In response to requests from those organisations representing disabled people, another initiative has been to introduce the CEA Card scheme, which has been successfully operating for seven years and provides a straightforward way in which many disabled people can obtain a free ticket for someone to accompany them to the cinema and provide any assistance they might need. At present there are over 65,000 holders of these cards.
This progress has been matched in other aspects of delivery by cinema sites. There are for example now around 700 weekly screenings of subtitled films for the hearing impaired and over half of UK cinema sites now have audio description facilities for those who are blind or partially sighted. Significant progress has been made in these areas over the last decade and will continue going forward.
All of these steps demonstrate the cinema sector’s commitment to meeting the needs of disabled people and have helped to improve the cinema-going experience.
However there are inevitably limits on what cinema operators or individual sites can sometimes reasonably do to meet the specific needs of disabled people. And as with all industries, there will be occasions where the level of service to customers falls below the high standards we seek to achieve. This is obviously regrettable and is something the sector is working hard to address.
Both at a local and a national level, the cinema industry is keen to maintain a dialogue with disabled people in order that it can better understand why such issues arise and what might be done to address them. One recent example of this is the development of popular ‘autism friendly’ screenings by several of the key cinema circuits. Another is the industry-funded National Schools Film Week, the largest festival of its kind in the world, which last year held 223 screenings across the UK specifically for disabled young people.
The CEA and the cinema industry will continue to work with disabled people and representative organisations in order to make continued improvements and to ensure that, where possible, the barriers to disabled people going to the cinema are tackled.”
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