Challenging Discrimination at the Cinema

Two of our Support Workers from the West Midlands contacted us to tell us how the people they care for experienced discrimination on a trip to the cinema. Here, they discuss their experiences, and explain how the situation was resolved:

Two service users from  Foresters Fold, Dudley Supported Living Service were the subject of discrimination as they were asked to leave a cinema, half way through watching the film Noah, for making too much noise.

The manager from the cinema asked us supporting the two women if anything was wrong, as the one of the service users was making humming sounds, to which we replied “No, everything is ok”. The manager then asked if the service user could take a walk to calm down; however, the service user is a wheelchair user. She also has Retts Syndrome and communicates by making humming sounds. Then we informed the manager of this, to which he replied that the service users were upsetting other cinema users and asked them to leave!

The manager offered to give them a full refund; however, both service users were enjoying the film, sitting in the designated disabled section. As they left, the manager turned to two women and said “It’s ok, they are leaving now”, one of the women said to us, “I’m sorry”, to which we responded “You have just discriminated against disabled people”.

We then explained to the manager that we were upset at the way they had been treated, he gave them a refund, took their tickets away and gave support workers two guest tickets and a flyer about monthly sessions for people with Autism.

Creative Support senior staff then contacted the cinema to make a complaint about how service users had been treated and completed a survey of what had happened which was sent to the area manager. The area manager contacted Creative Support the following day offering an apology and asked staff if there was anything they could do to make things right, to which staff replied the cinema staff behaved insensitively, discriminated against service users and that cinema staff needed appropriate training and to send a letter of apology for both service users.

The regional manager also called to offer his apologies and explained that as a result the cinema were increasing their disability training and the manager who dealt with service users in an insensitive way was going on specialised training. He also asked for advice on the Autism sessions they are introducing to attract new cinema goers. Staff members informed him that people do not want labels, and advertising sessions as Autistic was offensive. He said he would take that on board and change Autistic to disabled sessions. He said the lighting would be softer, music more subtle, no adverts or trailers and cinema staff would assist support workers to fetch drinks and food.

He asked what Creative Support staff would have done if they had been the manager to which they responded that they would have asked the people who complained to move as our service users were sat in disabled section, again he said he would take that on board. He assured Creative Support that lessons had been learned. As a gesture of goodwill, service users were given complimentary tickets and both received a letter of apology the following day.

How do you think customer service could be improved for people with disabilities? Contact to share your ideas. To find out more about autism-friendly film screenings, visit the Dimensions website.



2 Comments so far

  1. Bernardette Haward on June 11, 2014 4:19 pm

    That was awful behavior towards the service users, but let me just say that I had totally the opposite behavior on one occasion when attending the cinema in
    Leicester with a gentleman with learning disabilities and epilepsy.
    The member of staff on duty over heard myself mention the possible flash images to the service user and immediately inquired to the level of flashes/lighting noise etc before we purchased our tickets and went all out to make sure the seating was appropriate and we was totally pleased.
    I was that impressed with this that I took the liberty of writing a letter to his manager and complementing him Including his works reference number so they knew exactly who helped us that day

  2. Ben Thomas on June 12, 2014 10:27 am

    Hi Bernardette – We agree, there are plenty of helpful, understanding people out there who do their best to help people with disabilites! Thanks for sharing your story!


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