Cinemas urged to host more autism-friendly movie screenings in new Government push.
Exclusive: A minister has called for more of the special screenings to be available in Britain's cinemas
By Hugo Gye – inews.co.uk
Cinemas should host more autism-friendly film screenings to allow all customers to enjoy movies, a minister has said.
The Government is launching a new push to encourage companies to make their services more accessible.
Some cinemas already host autism-friendly screenings on a regular basis. These tend to have lower volume levels and do not dim the lights in the same way as normal.
Viewers are told they are free to move around during the film, while staff are trained in how to make autistic people feel more welcome.
Most large cinema chains already offer some autism-friendly screenings, but they are rarely more regular than once a month.
Speaking ahead of Sunday night's Oscars ceremony, minister for disabled people Justin Tomlinson said: "I’m thrilled that more and more cinemas are becoming accessible and setting a fantastic example. They have shown how just a few small changes can make a huge difference to the lives of disabled customers.
“I also want to encourage other organisations to follow those cinemas taking the lead in improving the experience for disabled cinemagoers, while also harnessing the spending power of the Purple Pound worth £249bn a year.”
His call was welcomed by charity leaders. Jane Harris of the National Autistic Society said: “There are around 700,000 autistic children and adults in the UK.
"They and their families want to go to the cinema just like everyone else. But many autistic people can find unfamiliar and noisy public places distressing and disorientating and end up stuck at home and socially isolated.
“We’ve been delighted to see cinemas putting real effort into introducing the changes needed to make autistic people feel welcome, and our own Autism Friendly Development team works closely with venues to improve the experience for autistic film fans."
Last year BFI Southbank in London was given an award by the charity for its efforts to improve the experience for autistic visitors. The venue allows customers to access a map of the cinema in advance and does not show trailers at its "relaxed screenings" designed to reduce the anxiety felt by vulnerable groups.