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Movies and mobility: A guide to accessible London cinemas

13th September 2018


There are certainly cultural touchstones and rallying points that bring society together, despite differences that exist. In the UK, one of those is certainly a love for movies, with the cinema being a beloved meeting place of friends and family for generations. But none of this is of much use if the cinema isn’t available to all, regardless of physical impairment. Thankfully, London is replete with accessible cinemas for movie-lovers to enjoy, with many providing a great number of facilities to help make the experience both comfortable and enjoyable.

Find accessible screenings

Where can these accessible cinemas be found? Well, apart from the examples listed below, one avenue for exploring what’s available is Accessible Screenings UK, a website that helps people to locate information on the accessible screenings available in the UK. The site is aimed at those seeking audio description, autism-friendly, and subtitled screenings, helping more people find movies that are accessible to them.

CEA Card Scheme

One way in which cinemas in this country have worked to improve their accessible nature is through the UK Cinema Association, which represents the interests of over 90 per cent of UK cinema operators. Through their CEA Card Scheme (introduced in 2004), participating cinemas are dedicated to ensuring that reasonable adjustments are made for disabled cinema-goers. Big national chains and small independent operators both participate. Furthermore, those in receipt of the disability living allowance or who are registered blind can apply for a CEA Card (costing £6 for a year) which enables the disabled cinema guest to receive a complimentary ticket for carers at participating cinemas.

Improving accessibility at independent cinemas

For independent cinemas that would like to learn about improving their venue’s accessibility, the place to go is the Independent Cinema Office (ICO). In partnership with Shape (who support disabled audience members to access arts in London), ICO has developed a reference guideline for independent cinemas to help improve access for disabled visitors to their venues. The guide is very in-depth, providing a wealth of information for cinemas, as well as a plethora of useful contacts regarding any next steps and further assistance that might be required.

Accessibility at Picturehouse cinemas

Image credit: Picturehouse

Picturehouse has several wonderful cinemas in London, many of which feature brilliant accessible facilities to make for a pleasurable movie-going experience. Picturehouse cinemas showcase the biggest new releases as well as classic screenings and anniversary presentations.

Accessible facilities

When it comes to accessible facilities, Picturehouse as a chain really has made strides to make their cinemas a welcoming experience for all. Let’s take their ‘Central’ Piccadilly location as an example. Beyond recommending advanced bookings, the cinema offers:

  • A free ticket for accompanying carers
  • Reservable wheelchair spaces
  • All areas of the building are accessible to wheelchair users
  • Lifts to each floor of the building
  • All screens can be accessed by wheelchairs
  • Accessible toilets on each floor
  • Guide dogs are welcome

Accessibility at Vue 


Vue is known around the country as being one of the biggest cinema chains, bringing the biggest films and blockbuster experiences to towns and cities across the land. In London, there are 11 Vue cinema locations for locals and visitors to the capital to enjoy.

Accessible facilities

Vue’s cinemas are very accessible, each location is a part of the CEA Card Scheme with Vue dedicated to giving every guest the best big screen experience possible. On their website, full accessibility details can be found for each location. Here’s a glimpse at their Westfield Shepherds Bush location:

  • Wheelchair access throughout the venue
  • Screens are on one level
  • Step-free access to wheelchair spaces
  • Accessible toilets
  • Dedicated wheelchair spaces
  • Lowered ticket counter
  • Weekly subtitled films
  • Audio description screenings
  • All but two screens equipped to provide hearing assistance via headset and neckloop technology.

Accessibility at Empire Walthamstow

Image credit: Empire Walthamstow

Located in the North East London district of Walthamstow, this Empire cinema is an impressive state-of-the-art nine-screen venue that can seat 1,200 movie-goers. Located on the corner of Hoe Street and High street, Empire Walthamstow is a wonderful spot to enjoy the latest film releases.

Accessible facilities

Empire Walthamstow offers visitors top-notch accessible facilities to make the venue inclusive and welcoming to all who just want to catch that movie release they have been looking forward to. Full details are available on their website but here’s a peek at what they offer:

  • Member of the CEA Card Scheme
  • Full wheelchair access in each screen
  • All auditoria equipped with Infra-Red for Audio description
  • Audio support headsets available
  • One free ticket for carers courtesy of the CEA Card

Accessibility at Everyman King’s Cross

Image credit: Everyman Cinema

Everyman cinemas are certainly innovative, bringing comfort and a unique vibe to their movie experiences. While popcorn and a soft drink are hallmarks of most cinemas, at Everyman visitors can look forward to a glass of red wine and a slice of fresh pizza! With top food and drink, London locations like Everyman King’s Cross are great venues to enjoy mainstream, classic, and independent films.

Accessible facilities

Londoners can also look forward to an accessible cinema experience at Everyman King’s Cross with disabled access being a priority. Please see below a glimpse at their facilities. Full cinema details are available on their site.

  • One removable seat for wheelchair users in each screen
  • Access lift to screens 1, 2, and 3
  • Accessible toilet
  • Level access to Screen 4
  • Hearing assist capabilities

Accessibility at Barbican Cinema

Image credit: Barbican

For those in search of a truly eclectic cinema experience, Barbican Cinema showcases a range of engrossing entertainment, screening everything from the latest indie releases and animated features to live broadcasts from the West End and classic movies from yesteryear.

Accessible facilities

When it comes to accessibility, the Barbican certainly has everything covered, providing visitors with a range of facilities at the venue and specifically the cinema. Facilities available at the venue as a whole can be viewed here and details on accessible screenings here.

  • Accessible toilets
  • Accessible parking
  • Ramped access
  • Wheelchair seating
  • Discounted tickets for Access members
  • Audio description and captioned film screenings
  • Relaxed screenings

Accessibility at Curzon Cinemas


Curzon cinemas have a loyal audience in London and it’s not hard to see why thanks to the excellent film programme, welcoming atmosphere, comfort, number of locations, and bar service. Bringing movie-lovers the biggest releases of the day, foreign films, and smaller movies many cinema-goers might not have heard of, Curzon has a great deal to offer at their seven London venues.

Accessible facilities

Taking Curzon’s Wimbledon location as an example, one can see why those who might require the use of an indoor stairlift enjoy their screenings. Each location has the specific accessible details on Curzon’s website but for Wimbledon in particular, the cinema offers:

  • Multiple wheelchair spaces per screen
  • Access lifts to the cinema
  • Hearing loop facilities
  • Multiple subtitled screenings per week

Accessibility at Lexi Cinema


Lexi is the UK’s first social enterprise independent boutique digital cinema, donating 100% of their profits to charity and staffed mainly by local volunteers. Passionate about movies and helping the community of North West London, this is a spot many people love to catch a film at with friends and family.

Accessible facilities

With their dedication to helping those around them, one shouldn’t be surprised to learn that Lexi Cinema is also an accessible venue, allowing even more people to enjoy their wonderful location in Kensal Rise (14 minutes from Kentish Town). Facilities include:

  • Level access from the street and into the auditorium
  • Accessible toilet
  • Two rows of flexible seating
  • Drinks brought to seats from the bar
  • Seat reservations
  • Induction loop


Image credit: markdbaynham, Ewan Munro, Matt Brown

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.