Dimensions, the national autism and learning disability support provider which pioneered autism friendly initiatives in cinemas nationwide, has ramped up their partnership with the UK Cinema Association and BFI Film Audience Network (FAN), supported by National Lottery funding, to develop free autism friendly training resources for all cinemas and cinema staff across the country.
The training, launched at the start of World Autism Awareness Month, was developed by people with autism and industry experts. In becoming ‘autism friendly’, cinema staff are trained on how to make small adjustments to the environment that create a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for people with autism. Autism friendly screenings are intended to open up cinemas and cinema-going to people with autism, and may help people with autism transition into attending traditional screenings. The launch coincides with research from Dimensions highlighting the pivotal role of autism friendly screenings in helping people with autism feel valued and included in society.
Elements of a traditional cinema screening can discourage visits from people with autism, 80% of whom have felt excluded from their local community. Their top concerns include too much noise, having to sit through adverts and trailers, and worrying about being judged by others.
The training tackles this with guidance on how to make small adjustments, such as altering the volume and lighting levels. As a result, people who go to autism friendly screenings feel more valued and understood (33%) and more connected to their community (27%).
Crucially, breaking down barriers to inclusion and communication, four in ten people with autism (41%) say that autism friendly screenings give them a reason to leave the house.
Since Dimensions first launched its autism friendly cinemas initiative eight years ago, there have been over 400,000 visits to over 350 autism friendly cinema sites (out of over 1,000 cinema sites in the UK*).
Yet with a quarter of people with autism (24%) having never attended an autism friendly screening, there is an urgent need for more cinemas to participate to ensure this opportunity is available across the country.
Sarah Clarke, Campaign Manager at Dimensions, said:
“Most people don’t have to think twice about going to the cinema, but if you have autism it
can be a stressful experience. With 80% having felt excluded from society, we know how
important autism friendly environments are in tackling this issue.
“We’ve been campaigning for years for more autism friendly environments and we’ve seen
first-hand how successful these initiatives can be. But there is still a lot of work to be done.
“We found that over 90% of people with autism would go to the cinema more if there were
more autism friendly opportunities. With our new training, we’re calling on every cinema in
the UK to become autism friendly, to ensure current and potential guests feel welcome and
valued, and – in turn – help make society more inclusive.”
Dimensions is a leading specialist not-for-profit provider of support for people with
autism and/ or learning disabilities. It supports about 3,000 people in England and
Wales. For more information go to www.dimensions-uk.org
Guests with a valid CEA Card (www.ceacard.co.uk) can get free entry for carers at
Cineworld, ODEON, Showcase and Vue cinemas
For a full list of participating cinema locations please visit https://www.dimensions-
Dimensions has developed free training for libraries and museums to be autism
friendly. Dimensions is working with Belong by GAME to provide autism friendly
adjustments at their Arenas. The training was written in partnership with people who
have autism, staff at the participating Belong Arenas and Dimensions’ in-house
experts. Visit Dimensions for more info.
About the UK Cinema Association
The UK Cinema Association (UKCA) represents the interests of well over 90 per cent of UK
cinema operators. Our members range from the largest cinema circuits to a wide range of
single site owner-operated companies. The UKCA advocates on behalf of the UK cinema
sector at international, national, regional and local level as well as working with other sectors
of the industry, particularly colleagues in film distribution, to promote the value of cinema to
the wider public and identify and share best practice.
The UK cinema sector is recognised as a world leader in its efforts to meet the needs of
disabled customers, with cinemas continuing to strive to make watching a film as fully
inclusive and as positive an experience as possible. Autism friendly screenings (AFS) have
seen phenomenal growth in terms of offering and attendance since they were first piloted in
2011, and are an area of activity which continues to grow year-on-year in the UK, with
around 70 per cent of the Association’s membership currently offering a regular programme