When Inaccessibility Leads to a Letdown


During the summer holidays I like to spend some time with my nieces; also we are a source of childcare. Just because school stops, it doesn’t mean other jobs do too.

It’s not always easy finding activities accessible for both energetic children and wheelchair users. A lot of things they enjoy involve climbing, swimming or jumping, none of which are in the list of my top skills.

The 6-year-old has always been a bit of a film buff; from the age of nothing she would happily sit and chuckle at the Minions for two hours. Although I wouldn’t encourage it all day every day, it was nice to spend a bit of chill time with her watching a movie. It gave us a common interest I could partake in, and also an excuse for me to watch all the classic Disney films again!

I planned on having a cinema trip with my 6-year-old niece during the summer holidays to see “Hotel Transylvania 3.” We’ve seen the other two together at the cinema; it’s become a thing. It’s only right we should see the third one together.

Going to the cinema can take more planning for a wheelchair user than you might expect. Even this can’t really be spur of the moment for me. Surely all cinemas are wheelchair accessible? Well yes, they pretty much are. If you like sitting at the front.

Let me ask you a question. When you walk into an empty cinema, you can usually sit wherever you want. It’s quite likely you and your group are the only viewers. Do you ever choose to sit at the front? No, because you want to see the whole picture at the same time, not turn your head following each character across the screen. You want to come home without blurry eyes and a sore neck.

The luxury of choosing where to sit at the cinema isn’t an option for myself and other wheelers. There’s a gap for our chair, and that’s where we have to park. Unfortunately due to poor design, this space is often at the front, where no one would choose to sit.

I can usually plan around this. I decide which film I’d like to see, look at the websites of my three most local cinemas (I have seating plans and screen positions retained to memory!), and choose a time and seating arrangement that works for me, a screen where I don’t have to sit at the front. Luckily, more often than not I can find a cinema, time and day to suit.

Unfortunately, this time I couldn’t.

Usually if I can’t find a film with wheelchair spaces at the back or middle on a Tuesday, I’ll go on a Friday. My time is my own, and there’s only myself to upset. But I only had my niece for that one day. She thought we were seeing “Hotel Transylvania 3” — foolishly, I’d mentioned we might. I started my usual planning by checking out which cinemas and screens the film was showing in. I checked more cinemas than usual. Every showing of “Hotel Transylvania 3” within a 20 mile radius of my house was on a screen where I as a wheelchair user would have no option but to sit at the front.

So what do I do? Do we go and sit at the front not enjoying the film as much as we should, with a crick in my neck? Do I upset a 6-year-old by explaining the situation, saying that we’d have to sit at the front and I can’t really do that without being in pain? Making her either mad at me, disability, or the world? Does my mum take my niece while I go off and do something else, meeting them later, ruining what’s become an aunty-niece thing?

I don’t know if it was the right thing to do, but we told her the film was cancelled that day. She’s 6, that’s acceptable in her world. She’s disappointed, but nobody is to blame. Well, a world in which wheelchair access is still at the bottom of the list way too often is to blame, but does she need to know that right now? I don’t know.

There’s still summer holiday time left. Fingers crossed we get to see “Hotel Transylvania 3” while sitting comfortably, stuffing our faces with popcorn.

This story originally appeared on Wheel Escapades.

Getty image by Razi Husin.


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