For families like mine, it can sometimes be so hard to find things to do on a rainy day. Many of my friends bundle into soft play centres or go swimming and throw themselves down flumes. Their kids are kept amused and their sanity vaguely in tact. But for us, soft play and swimming is no good. With a severely disabled child who is not mobile, soft play chaos is simply inaccessible. Swimming pools are too cold and exasperate Hadley’s condition! So the cinema, watching a lovely family, feel-good movie whilst gorging on popcorn and a few (well ok, a lot) of sweets, is one of the only activities that we can do on a rainy day as a family. We all love movies. And with wheelchair accessible screens, you wouldn’t think it would be difficult for us would you?
But it is. Because the movie experience is not a quick one. Especially with the length of the trailers added on. So you are looking at around 3 hours in the cinema sometimes. And with fizzy drinks (don’t judge me) and small children, that usually means several trips to the toilet (annoying, but inevitable). But what happens when there is no toilet for your child to use? “What? Why would there be no toilet?” I hear you ask. Well of course there are ladies and gents toilets. And there is probably an ambulant disabled toilet too. But for people like my son, Hadley, who has a severe physical disability and who has to wear nappies, there is nothing. He needs an adult-sized changing bench and hoist to be able to access the toilet. But these don’t exist in cinemas.
A very good friend of mine recently contacted Cineworld to ask why and to appeal to them to help us change this, so that our families can visit the cinema and enjoy the experience others get to frequently enjoy. The response she got was beyond shocking and was really not what she was expecting.
She was told by Mr Ed Thompson, Customer Experience Manager of Cineworld, that he believed the inclusion of a Changing Places facility at new builds was not classed as a “reasonable adjustment”, due to the cost associated with Changing Places. Yet Cineworld’s last published pre-tax profit was £67.3m!
Mr Thompson didn’t seem to understand why we felt we needed toilets within his cinema complexes. Using the Brighton Cineworld as an example, he stated there was a Changing Places a “mile away” that disabled customers could use!
I mean honestly, this is a ridiculous statement Mr Thompson! Can you imagine it. Half way through the movie, the inevitable happens: Disabled son: “Mummy, I need changing, I’ve done a poo in my nappy!” Parent: “Thank you for telling me darling. Don’t worry, we’ll just walk in the rain for about half and hour to the Changing Places facility the other side of town. If we’re lucky we might get back to watch the final credits to see who played your favourite character. I know, even though you’ve been waiting to see this amazing movie for months, since your little face lit up when you first saw the trailer on the telly, that you didn’t really want to see all of it did you sweetheart. I mean, you get the gist of the story, who wants to see them live happily ever after anyway? Your father and sister can tell you what happens. Come on, let’s go.”
I mean, what the actual heck! How on earth is this a viable option for us? Yes, we all have to miss a few minutes with kiddies, by quickly running to the loo mid film, it is unfortunately one of those things. But toileting for a child with a severe disability takes long enough as it is, without adding a hike into the equation! And if your child does have the ability to use the toilet, and it’s not a case of changing a nappy, it would be by the time you actually reached the loo over a mile away!!
So we either have to lay our children on toilet floors to change them, or not have a lovely day out at the pictures! And let’s not forget that I’m not just talking about children here. There are thousands of adults who have needs like these too, for whom it is even more difficult to change on a toilet floor.
I think they really need to think wisely before making statements like this. And employ a decent PR agency to boot!
What makes matters worse, is that Cineworld is currently in the process of Building a brand new 93,000 square foot Multiscreen Cinema complex at Burgess Hill, in which they have flatly refused to include a Changing Places facility! Even though to include one on the plans would be so easy and the cost to them way less than they would make in revenue from families like mine over the coming years.
If you feel as upset about this as I do, and you’d like to help us fight for the right to use the loo at the cinema, then please feel free to pop along to Cineworld’s Facebook and Twitter Pages and let them know how you feel. I have.
Let’s just hope this story eventually has a happy ending.