Make Your Independent Cinema More Wheelchair-Friendly

When running an independent cinema, you want to make sure that all of your guests have the best possible experience - including those who use wheelchairs. Making your cinema fully accessible will show customers that they are valued, result in good reviews, and could lead to more business in the future. A cinema without proper wheelchair access is likely to alienate customers and attract criticism – it could even go against local regulations. There are a few simple changes that can transform an adequate cinema experience into a magical one for wheelchair-using customers.

Ramps and lifts

The basics really are important when it comes to wheelchair access. Make sure that your entire building is wheelchair accessible by installing ramps or wheelchair lifts wherever there are steps. Ramps are preferable where possible, as they cannot malfunction or be affected by power outages, and allow visitors more freedom to move around on their own. In smaller spaces or areas where a ramp would be too steep, lifts will be the best option. If you're unsure about how to make your building as accessible as possible, hiring a consultant and asking for feedback from disabled visitors can help.

Wheelchair seating areas

Customers come to the cinema for a high-quality film viewing experience, and this shouldn't be forgotten for wheelchair users. Make sure that wheelchair seating areas are easy to get to, provide a good view of the screen, and are comfortable. You should aim to incorporate seats for friends or caregivers, as it can be very disappointing when wheelchair users are forced to sit apart from the people they came to watch the film with.

Ensure that lighting is adequate for wheelchair users to safely navigate to their seats, and allow them to be seated before other visitors if possible by providing special tickets. Offering free tickets to the carer of a disabled visitor is good practice and shows your commitment to making sure everyone can enjoy a cinema visit, regardless of physical limitations.

Staff trained to offer help

Having properly trained staff to offer assistance can make a massive difference to your disabled visitors, especially if it's their first visit to your cinema. Staff should have full knowledge of accessible routes around the building, know how to operate wheelchair lifts, and be trained to communicate in a respectful and appropriate way. They should also be able to offer advice to potential customers over the phone, and respond to any concerns - for example, "Is there a disabled toilet?" Investing in full training for your staff is definitely worthwhile. They'll feel more confident, and this will show when they interact with customers.