Between 8.6 and 11.4 million people visit the cinema every month in the UK according to the Cinema Advertising Association (CAA). That is an astounding figure and one that will be making cinemas across the country handsome profits. Yet in an industry that showcases some of the most cutting-edge technology, with buildings including numerous screens the size of a house, there are still some basics that are severely lacking for hundreds of thousands of disabled customers. We believe all cinemas should have Changing Places toilets, with changing bench and hoist, so that everyone can enjoy the movies!
Fraser Simmonds is a 10-year-old, dinosaur-loving boy with a cheeky sense of humour from Billericay in Essex. He is a full-time powered wheelchair user living with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. As well as knowing everything there is to know about dinosaurs, Fraser is also a keen gamer and loves movies – particularly, you guessed it, Jurassic World!
Here, his mum Shelley explains how the lack of Changing Places toilets impacts their family:
“The cinema is a really good activity for us as it’s always flat level access, there’s wheelchair allocated seating and the CEA card takes into consideration visitors who need to bring a carer. Films are something the whole family can enjoy; an easy-going activity where Fraser can feel at ease in his surroundings and his sister doesn’t feel different to other families. Kids can enjoy the popcorn and sweets and adults can kick-back and enjoy a couple of hours peace!
“Everyone needs a quick wee before the film starts and afterwards once they’ve drunk their huge bucket of drink. But standard disabled toilets do not meet the needs of those with more complex disabilities, who need a hoist and changing bench and help from a carer, like my son. So there isn’t a toilet at cinema venues that he can use comfortably and in a dignified manner.
“I have to lift him manually in a standard disabled toilet, which is becoming really difficult for me. Fraser is ten and is almost the same height as me now. I am not sure in all honesty how much longer I will safely be able to do it. This makes the world very limiting.
“There are thousands of families out there like mine silently enduring this. Imagine telling other cinema goers that there’s not a toilet available – there would be outrage!
“Having got some access needs brilliantly right, it doesn’t make any sense to me that cinema chains haven’t gone that one step further and included Changing Places in their building designs – they definitely have the space for them!
“I would urge all cinemas to review their current toilet offerings and consider joining the Changing Places campaign – leading change and equality for disabled people on a national scale.”
Claire Haymes, Changing Places coordinator at Closomat, says: “Changes to building regulations in 2020, state any new cinema built must now include a Changing Places toilet by law, alongside regular and accessible facilities. But that leaves hundreds of already existing cinemas effectively discriminating against some of their customers, even though they may not be aware they are doing so.
“Installing a Changing Places retrospectively in a large building like a cinema can be fairly straightforward and makes business sense. How many families like the Simmonds will have to stop visiting or will visit a competitor instead that does provide a Changing Places? We can help cinemas retain and grow their customer base by catering for their toileting needs.”
You can read about how theatre-lover, Kerrie, regularly risks her health to watch the shows she loves here.
Read Ella and Luda’s thoughts on what it is like to socialise with your friends in a world that doesn’t ensure everyone has access to a safe toilet here.
Brody, Laura, Sarah and Hadley say healthcare settings are disabling the patients they are supposed to support, here.