There are almost 10million disabled people in the UK, 70% of whom have a non-visible disability. The barriers preventing disabled and D/deaf people from enjoying a film in public are multiple, but with a few reasonable adjustments, exhibitors can make the experience welcoming and comfortable.
Film London is collaborating with diversity and disability consultants Freeney Williams to provide training and advice to Film Hub London members.
Bespoke advice service
Film Hub London Members can benefit from a new helpline, which will provide support and guidance in all aspects of their work in relation to disability and disabled people; both as customers and employees. The Helpline will be facilitated by Freeney Williams Ltd the UK’s leading specialist consultancy in this field.
If you have any queries about making your events more accessible, how to ensure you welcome disabled customers and what to do if problems arise, email email@example.com stating the name of your Hub Member organisation and your query.
We'll announce in-person training sessions as they arise, but in the meantime we've created this guide to help you become a more accessible exhibitor.
Thinking about different audiences
A range of disabilities can affect a person’s ability to access cinema:
- Visual impairment including partial sight and complete blindness
- Hearing impairment and deaf including those who use a range of communications techniques such as lip reading and British Sign Language (BSL)
- Cognitive disorders such as autism
- Mobility impairment including wheelchair users, people with other mobility aids or with walking difficulties
This is not an exhaustive list but it can be helpful to consider potential barriers caused by these disabilities. With this in mind, we’ve developed some practical tips for cinema exhibitors who wish to be more welcoming to disabled audiences.
Overcoming organisational or system barriers
- Consider whether your policies, procedures and practices unwittingly or otherwise restrict, hinder or discriminate against disabled people
- Think about every stage of the ‘customer journey’, from booking a ticket to travelling to the cinema, and ensure it is as accessible as possible
- See these helpful guidelines from the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association (CEA) on how best to display relevant information on your organisation’s website
- Do you offer a free ticket to CEA card holders? Is this information clearly displayed and is all staff aware?
- Ensure there is someone responsible for ensuring all equipment (such as headsets, audio-loop systems) is working and available
Changing attitudes and improving communication – best practice
- Don’t make assumptions. There are no set rules or ways to ‘categorise’ what a disabled person’s needs are. If you are not sure what to do or say, simply ask the person if they require assistance and if so, what their preferences are
- Leave disabled people in control of what is happening to them and don’t undermine an individual’s dignity
- Consider your body language. If a disabled person is accompanied by someone who is helping them you should still address the individual directly
- When talking to someone with a speech impairment, a hearing impaired person or an individual with learning disabilities, be prepared to repeat yourself or find alternative means of communication
- As in most interactions with customers, don’t touch a disabled person without their permission unless it is to attract their attention or to prevent an accident
- Don’t ask about someone’s disability. If you need information about how to assist them it is more effective to ask about the effect of their disability and its implications in the way you assist them, for example, if assisting a blind person, rather than asking ‘how much can you see’ ask them if you need to tell them about steps
Considering physical barriers
- Make sure external signage is clear, that there are accessible car parking bays and that dedicated parking is clearly marked and policed
- Ensure that finding and accessing the building, retail areas, manual and automatic ticket kiosks, toilets, auditorium and seats is easy for people of all abilities
- Determine a clear evacuation policy which is inclusive to people of all abilities
Technical ways to make screenings more accessible
- Audio loop
These can ensure audiences who use hearing aids are not distracted or distressed by excessive background noise
- Hard of Hearing (HoH) Subtitles
These are available on selected film titles and can be selected by the projectionist
- AFS (Autism Friendly Screenings)
These make cinemas more appropriate for autistic audiences. Auditoriums have low lighting levels, the volume is turned down, there are no trailers, and customers can take their own food and drinks and move around the cinema if necessary
- Audio description for visually impaired audiences
These help blind and partially sighted cinema goers know what’s happening on screen. The film soundtrack comes through the cinema’s surround sound speakers in the usual way, and a recorded narrator explains what's happening on screen through personal headphone
- Infra Red headsets
Can improve a customer’s hearing of the film soundtrack
Other useful links:
London’s Screen Archives, recently held the Screen Heritage conference “Future-proofing Our Collections: Unleashing the Power of Archive Film” to discuss the value of archive film and its potential to bring together communities and inspire new audiences.