Article: Dimensions partners with film industry to urge UK cinemas to become autism friendly

Glasgow Film Theatre - Access Film Club

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.

  • 80% of people with autism have felt excluded from their local community
  • 41% say autism friendly cinema screenings give them a reason to leave the house
  • In response Dimensions, the UK Cinema Association and BFI Film Audience Network launch training and call on all UK cinemas to participate

The training resources, launching at the start of World Autism Awareness Month, were 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. The guide features a training video, with stories from people with autism, as well as a written guide available to anyone looking to improve on or make a start in providing autism-friendly 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.

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 found that over 90% of people with autism would go to the cinema more if there were more autism friendly opportunities.”

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.

Toki Allison, BFI Film Audience Network Access Officer at Film Hub Wales, said:

This has been a really important collaboration for us, as we are working to ensure that cinema is accessible to everyone. There is a space for many different types of cinema and its transformative power should be available to influence anyone who has an interest in seeing films, whatever their needs or behaviours. Many FAN members have been screening autism friendly screenings regularly for their communities and we’re keen to ensure this trend continues and grows.

The latest figures from the UK Cinema Association and BFI Film Audience Network (March 2019) show there are over 1,000 cinema sites across the UK, including chains, independents, multi-arts centres, and community cinemas. Currently, over 350 cinema sites are participating in Dimensions’ autism friendly cinema screenings initiatives.

To find out where your nearest screening is, go to: 

To help venues put on and organise screenings, UKCA also have put together a downloadable marketing pack

The initiative is part of a wider Dimensions campaign to create more autism friendly environments around the UK. Dimensions has also launched a range of free training resources for libraries, museums and Belong by GAME stores to encourage a widespread perception change and ensure more public spaces across the UK are autism friendly.

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