Calls For Better Access To Reading Cinema

22 August 2011, 05:45 | Updated: 22 August 2011, 06:34

Twin sisters from the Thames Valley are campaigning for better access to cinemas for people with disabilities.

Judith and Laura Berry, 22, from Worminghall near Thame, are part of a group called Trailblazers - an organisation of around 350 young people who raise awareness of issues affecting those with muscle-wasting diseases.

They are part of the leading UK charity - the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign.

More than a 100 young people visited 125 independent and chain cinemas in their local areas during the summer and rated them on accessibility and disability awareness among staff.

The investigation found there were poor views for people in wheelchairs, causing discomfort and sore necks, rude or embarrassing treatment by staff and no online ticket service for disabled customers.

In the Thames Valley the screens in Aylesbury and the Odean in Basingstoke were praised while Reading's Vue cinema was criticised for its access.

The Trailblazer who reviewed it found the booking office at ground level was unmanned and the lift blocked by boxes. She reported being unable to get a staff member's attention in order to access the main cinema.

The wheelchair-accessible seating at her screen was right at the front and she found it too close to the screen, causing her discomfort throughout the film. Vue has been contacted but has not been able to comment as yet.

Judith and Laura told Heart on previous trips they've been branded fire risks for leaving their wheelchairs in the aisle and often have to sit right at the front.

Laura says they just want to enjoy the experience with friends:

"Quite a lot of my peers would like to be further back - so one of the things we're asking for is for wheelchair spaces to be put in the middle so that we can see like everyone else and be part of the audience."

The Trailblazers group are now calling on cinema exhibitors to have the same standards and to sign a charter to work towards an equal experience for everyone.

The twins are asking members of the public to sign a petition backing the charter, which will be presented to cinema operators and MPs at Westminister.

Figures within the British film industry, including Nick Frost, Simon Pegg and Miranda Richardson are supporting the campaign.

Ms Richardson said:

"Everybody should have the same opportunity to enjoy a great film and as this petition shows, it is often the small considerations that make a big difference to the whole cinema experience for disabled movie-lovers."