Why Do AMC Cinemas Hate Blind People?

My wife is legally blind, and likes to go to the cinema. There are a few cinemas that we go to, and most of them are very good about her blindness. We sometimes go to HOME, and they provide audio description headphones whenever there’s a description for that film (sometimes, as with watching classic films from the 50s or whatever, there isn’t). When, as sometimes happens, there’s a technical problem with the audio description, they apologise, refund us the money, allow us to watch the rest of the film for free, and give us complimentary tickets for a future showing. Most of the time there isn’t a problem, of course.

Other times we go to the Cineworld in Stockport. They also provide audio description headphones for every film (they only show big new films, all of which now come audio described), and will do things like suggest the best place in the cinema to sit for optimal reception of the signal. They do this quickly, professionally, and without any confusion.

And on occasion we go to the AMC in Manchester city centre.

We will not be going again, and suggest you don’t either, if you care even slightly about disabled people.

Holly only discovered the existence of audio description as a regular thing a year or two ago, and we’ve only been to the AMC twice since then. The first time was a little over a month ago, to see Ghostbusters. Unlike at HOME or Cineworld, where as soon as you ask for audio description headphones they go and get some, explain where the switches and so on are, and generally go out of their way to help, the people at the AMC seemed to treat the request in much the same way as if I’d requested they provide me a porcupine that speaks Spanish. Eventually, after about four people had some earnest conversations, they provided a pair of headphones and I took it in to Holly, as the film had already started at that point.

When she put them on, she discovered it wasn’t the audio description, but rather the soundtrack, amplified for hearing-impaired people. I took the headphones back out, explained the situation, explained it again to someone else as the first person didn’t understand (that is NOT a dig at the person in question, but at the lack of training they have been provided), and eventually explained it to the projectionist, who they called out, and who said, and I quote:

Oh, we never bother with that, as no-one ever asks for it

I repeat:

Oh, we never bother with that, as no-one ever asks for it

so now I had to go back into the cinema and make my wife cry, by explaining to her that she wouldn’t be able to properly watch the film she’d been so excited about seeing, because the cinema couldn’t be bothered with her.

After the film, we complained to the manager, who said “he shouldn’t have said that” (note what she *didn’t* say, which is “that’s not true” — she just said he shouldn’t have said it). I explained to her the duty under the law to provide reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities, and she said “this won’t happen again”, and gave us a couple of complimentary tickets.

As I explained to her at the time, though, what we wanted wasn’t tickets, but an assurance that they would start to bother.

Yesterday we (along with our friend Debi, who’s here to stay for a few days) gave them a second chance, going to see Finding Dory (a film Holly had already seen once, so if they messed things up again she wouldn’t be totally lost).

This time, after talking to four different members of staff, we were eventually told “well, it’s not *advertised* as being audio-described” — as if it were our fault for expecting them to fulfil their legal obligations whether or not they were advertising it.

They then told us they *did* have an audio-described showing of Finding Dory, if we wanted to see it.

A 3D showing.

Not only do 3D screenings cost more than 2D screenings, and require glasses which cost extra — thus ensuring they are charging extra for providing disability accommodation, which is illegal — there’s also the rather important point that

BLIND PEOPLE OFTEN CAN’T EVEN SEE IN 3D!

I say often here because “blind” covers a variety of problems and most blind people have *some* vision. Some blind people can probably get something out of 3D effects — but it certainly shouldn’t be expected.

At that point I just became a raging ball of fury, and I still am twenty-four hours later.

The first time this happened, I tweeted about it and got a reply from them, offering to discuss this in private by DM or email or any other way which didn’t give them bad publicity. I didn’t take them up on it, because I told them I wasn’t interested in private compensation for us, but in *public* steps taken to actually solve the problem. When Debi talked about this time on FB, she similarly got a reply as a private message (which I haven’t read but which from her description solved nothing). Again, no public acknowledgement that this is even a problem.

So I have a simple question to ask AMC. Three questions, actually:

Why do you hate blind people?
Why do you like making my wife cry?
Is there any reason at all that we shouldn’t pursue prosecution under the Equalities Act 2010 for your active contempt of disabled customers?

I asked the first two questions on Twitter yesterday, and of course got no response. Maybe adding that third one will get them to publicly apologise, not only to one disabled customer, but to all the others they “don’t bother” with or illegally charge extra for their legal rights, and more importantly maybe it will get them to actually fulfil their obligations to disabled people.

Because if asking the question doesn’t get them to do that, then I will have an answer, and will have to take this further.

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8 Responses to Why Do AMC Cinemas Hate Blind People?

  1. dm says:

    A 3D screening especially for blind people. This is either:
    a) staggering incompetence, born of a lack of proper/any consideration for patrons, or
    b) a deliberate attempt to extort disabled people

    but it’s probably both, really

  2. dm says:

    I like how on the BBC’s 2005 series box set, the DVDs default to an audio description on the title before the menu. It would be great if other boxed sets did it, because I can imagine it could be fairly frustrating not knowing which disk you’ve put in until you somehow navigate to the audio set up menu.

  3. cruth01 says:

    Fuckers. I doubt they’re deliberately trying to extort people though, it is more likely to be a kind of depraved indifference, isn’t it?

    • Holly says:

      Yeah, I think it’s indifference and cluelessness. It’s amazing how much more of both of those things can exist in the world than most people would expect. :)

      But after a certain point it doesn’t matter if it’s incompetence or malice: it’s just as disabling either way. I’m still left sitting with my friends knowing I’m not getting anything like as good a movie-watching experience as they are, and at that point I don’t really care whether I’m hated or ignored or forgotten about or misunderstood: I’m disabled by the cinema. Not by my visual impairment. I’m disabled by the inability or unwillingness of fractions of society to prov reasonable adjustments. If I’d written this, I wouldn’t have put in the title that AMC hate blind people; I’d have said they disable blind people.

      • cruth01 says:

        Yes, I didn’t mean that to modify anything Andrew is saying, I just meant it as a response to the suggestion dm makes that it’s a deliberate attempt at extortion. I agree with all you say…

  4. Well, that’s terrible. It would be like a place that doesn’t have facilities for wheelchair users, which unfortunately still exist.

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