Published: 2nd November 2016
Having a family member with a disability should not stop you from going to see your favourite show or film in London. Here are some tips on what’s available to make things easier.
Lots of theatres now offer a range of support services and most will also offer wheelchair spaces and a free or concessionary carers ticket. In most cases you will need to phone to book these but the theatre website will give you more information as well as details of any dates which offer enhanced support for people with disabilities including:-
Relaxed performances are specially designed performances that have been adapted to reduce anxiety and create a supportive atmosphere for people with autism spectrum conditions, learning disabilities and other sensory and communication disorders.
Audio description helps visually impaired theatregoers by providing a live verbal commentary on the visual elements of a production broadcast through a headset available from the box office.
Captioning provides deaf and hard of hearing theatre-goers access to live performance by converting speech into visible text and displaying it on an electronic screen
At signed performances an interpreter will stand in a visible position and interpret the spoken and heard elements of a performance
There is lots of info available on http://www.officiallondontheatre.co.uk/access/ including a venue access guide and regularly updated information on supported performances in the west end.
Odeon, Cineworld, Vue and Showcase Cinemas all partner with the autism and learning disability charity, Dimensions, to offer monthly autism friendly screenings of the latest releases. Details are available on the cinema’s websites or via the Dimensions website.
If your child has a learning disability or autism you may want to download a social story template from either the Dimensions website or the Vue Cinema website to help your child understand what is going to happen at the cinema and alleviate any anxiety.
Bigger cinemas will have wheelchair spaces available but for blockbusters and popular films you will need to pre-book a space , normally over the phone via a dedicated accessibility number.
Many cinemas now offer audio description for people with a visual impairment; the headphones can be collected from the box office. For people with a hearing impairment the big cinema chains offer some showings with subtitles, check the cinema listings for information on audio described or subtitled showings.
You might want to invest in a CEA Card which is a scheme operated by the UK Cinema Association to offer a free carers ticket to disabled goers. You need to send in your evidence which is normally a DLA or PIP award letter or certificate of visual impairment. the card costs £6.00 and is valid for a year.
The wonderful Polka Theatre in Wimbledon is a very disability friendly children’s theatre with signed performances, relaxed performances and inclusive workshops available for all of its shows. We have been to relaxed performances previously where the actors come out in costume before the show so that the children can familiarise themselves with the characters and not feel anxious or scared. The signed performances often involve the interpreter moving with the actor and being part of the action. Concessionary tickets are offered for carers and the box office staff can provide water bowls and dog biscuits for off duty assistance dogs!