Odeon accused of ‘disgraceful’ lack of wheelchair access at cinema

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Odeon has been accused of forgetting about the needs of people with disabilities and access issues amid a string of broken lifts at cinemas across the country.

At the Wimbledon cinema, residents have not been able to watch films for months because of a broken lift and escalator which means the the only access is via two flights of stairs.

Locals say it’s “disgraceful” and claim accessibility is low on the agenda for the cinema chain, which has not provided a date for when the lift will be fixed - after it initially broke in November and was fixed for around a month before it broke again on Friday, Liberal Democrat councillor for Wimbledon Anthony Fairclough said.

Odeon has issued an apology over the inaccessibility of the west London cinema, and for a string of broken lifts at other cinemas across England.

It said refurbishment work was underway and would be completed “as soon as possible”.

But Wimbledon resident Simon Parritt, 72, a wheelchair user, said the failures have been “frustrating” and “accessibility tends to be put down the agenda”.

With no working lift, Mr Parritt hasn’t been able to watch a film at his closest cinema for months.

“I’d like to see the lift being prioritised as an access issue. I don’t know why it’s such a low priority or whether there are problems, but it’s cutting out a load of people who could go [to the cinema],” he told the Standard.

Another resident, Nick Duffy, 30, said elderly people and parents with prams struggle on the stairs.

“I’m a regular cinema-goer and have seen elderly people struggling to climb up the stairs which is awful to see, especially as there’s no staff at the bottom to help if they fall.

“There are often prams and buggies abandoned at the entrance too. There is no warning on the Odeon website when booking tickets, so often people will have no idea until they arrive.

“It’s disgraceful.”

But Odeon’s accessibility issues extend beyond London.

Lifts are also currently broken at least three other Odeon cinemas - in Norwich, Birmingham and Lincoln.

Wheelchair user Felix Fern told the Standard that the lift at Odeon Norwich has been broken for at least a couple of weeks.

Odeon said there are broken lifts at “a very small number” of cinemas and that refurbishment work was being treated “as a priority”.

The company owns 120 cinemas across the UK and Ireland.

Broken lifts at theatres, cinemas and gyms are a common challenge, Disability Rights UK said.

Spokesperson Anna Morell told the Standard: “Businesses must make adjustments for us by law, but too often, we are made to feel like an inconvenience or afterthought.

“Businesses forget that as well as the negative impact of not being able to participate in activities which enrich our human experience, the purple pound [spending power of disabled households] in the UK is worth £274bn to businesses.

“By ignoring our needs, both disabled people, and the businesses which should be serving us, are both missing out.”

An Odeon spokesperson said: “We are aware of accessibility issues at Odeon Wimbledon. The necessary refurbishment work is now underway and will be completed as soon as possible.

“We would like to apologise to any guests for the inconvenience caused.”