The CEA has issued a detailed response to the ‘The Big Picture’ report on disabled access in cinemas. This research report was conducted by Trailblazers, the young campaigners network for the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign.

In summary, the CEA – on behalf of the UK cinema sector – welcomes all feedback on what more might reasonably be done to improve the experience of disabled people visiting cinema theatres. For that reason, the Association is pleased to respond on behalf of its members to the recent Trailblazers report The Big Picture.

That said, there is disappointment that in the report – and in the film Lights, Camera, Access which accompanies it – there are a number of assertions which are not based on solid research and which are in our view misleading.

We of course accept that the overriding aim of Trailblazers’ work is to improve the ability of people with disabilities to attend the cinema. However, the tone of the report and film seems to in some way suggest that this is something the cinema industry does not itself want to achieve. The CEA would like to put on record that this is definitely not the case.

Unfortunately however, addressing the issues raised by Trailblazers is not as straightforward as might be perceived from your research. However, it is important to note that all of the issues raised by the report have been the focus of prolonged effort over the past ten years, which is planned to continue.

The key points made in the response are that:

While in no way complacent , we believe that the UK cinema sector has a strong record of delivery on issues of access to a broad range of disabled people with a variety of specific access needs in keeping with its duties under the Equality Act 2010 (previously the Disability Discrimination Act 1995);

Cinema companies have invested a significant amount of money and effort in ensuring that their sites are as accessible as they can reasonably be made, and that there are facilities and services appropriate for customers with disabilities in the vast majority of their venues;

That said, many cinemas are now aging, and even venues which are only a decade or more old, whilst they conform to the building standards and requirements which applied at the time of their construction, are perhaps no longer fully compliant with current standards and guidance, both of which have moved on since then. Once constructed, refitting or reconfiguring sites to bring them up to new standards of accessibility can be extremely expensive and in some cases very difficult, if not impossible, in practical terms;

In all work in this area, health and safety is the primary concern. In some cases such considerations, and those around fire safety regulations, can serve to restrict the placement of wheelchair spaces and other facilities.