Is it really worth having a CEA (Cinema Exhibitor’s Association) card now known as UK Cinema Association?

I’m all for Access and Equality everywhere where possible and do encourage people to speak up and not be ashamed of their ‘Dis’Ability.

Ok… I tell a lie, I do hold back on my Disability purely because in my 25 (ahem 31) years, I’ve seen how people’s attitudes change in a split second when I say “Sorry, could you repeat that, I’m deaf…” it’s literally ‘Deer in headlights’ moment or they pass on their job role to someone else who is brave enough to step up. That is where I just feel frustrated and it’s basically lack of awareness.

This brings me the subject of the CEA card. The card came out a quite few years ago in 2004 and I was told about this by a fellow deaf friend of mine. At the time it was £5 and you had to get a form from a cinema, fill it in, post it with a very terrible passport photo of yourself along with evidence of DLA.

Fast forward a few years later and it all updated again to being able to apply for it online, again with a terrible selfie (as long as you do it with a white background) and a photograph evidence of DLA/PIP. (PIP was set up in 2013 to replace DLA for those age over 16…)

“The CEA Card is a national card scheme developed by the UKCinema Association for UK cinemas.

The scheme was introduced in 2004 and is one of the ways for participating cinemas to ensure they provide a consistent voluntary approach to making reasonable adjustments for disabled guests when they go to the cinema. Around 90 per cent of UK cinemas are supporting the scheme from the large national chains to smaller independent operators.

Under the disability provisions of the Equality Act 2010, cinema operators have obligations to make reasonable adjustments in order to facilitate disabled people going to the cinema. For disabled people, this may mean a carer might be needed to assist them.

The CEA Card is administered and run by The Card Network. For further information on the scheme, including a list of participating cinemas, go to the CEA Card website.

To apply for the Card, you will need to meet one or both of the following criteria:

1. Be in receipt of the Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance or Personal Independence Payment;

2. Be a registered blind person.

I have copied a section from to highlight the points I feel needs pointing out.

To be eligible for a CEA card, you need to be in receipt of DLA/ PIP, we all know how PIP have treated many Deaf people and many have lost their disability benefit but that’s a separate issue. Those who do not get PIP due to terrible treatment of the Face to Face assessors cannot apply for a CEA card and many other benefits. So how will they “access” these schemes?

When my CEA card expired in 2017, I thought to myself, I’ll look at how quick the new one comes and found it has risen to £6, which to me, isn’t the main issue. What brought it to my attention was the fact I went to a cinema with an expired CEA card and explained it had expired however did have my Disability Card from the council on me. The manager made it clear that they accept Council Disability Card or DLA/PIP letters shown with my name on.

When I think about it now and when I question more about it, the more I really disagree with the scheme of CEA cards.

What I did next was email all the local cinemas in myhometown and every single one of them have responded similarly along the lines of…

“I can assure you the CEA Card is not mandatory. It helps to make the ticket transaction process smoother but it is not needed for a free carer’s ticket to be issued. When speaking with the customer and it is not immediately apparent they are disabled and require a carer, it might be necessary to ask for alternative documentation or identification that establishes the customer as disabled and requiring a carer. This could be in the form of a Disability Living Allowance (DLA) document or something similar. Customers may come with a CredAbility, Hynt, or another form of access card, which might also help to indicate that the customer is disabled and may require a carer.”

A carer to me is a hearing person attending a screening regardless of it being subtitled or not in case of emergencies. I have first-hand experience of being in a cinema where fire alarms were going off during a film and there was me and my father, who is also deaf, wondering why people were leaving the cinema. We were the last people out of a building on fire.…not someone taking advantage of a “free ticket” it’s my life and safety in someone else’s hands.

When I received the responses from the cinemas, it made me feel that the CEA card was simply an accessory rather than serving a true purpose. TheCEA card was set up to ‘improve’ access in cinemas, but I don’t think that this was the right approach.

The biggest clue on the CEA website are the words “Equality Act 2010” and “cinema operators have obligations to make reasonable adjustments in order to facilitate disabled people going to the cinema”

This to me, basically means you do not need a CEA card and the unnecessary extra costs that comes with having a disability.

It’s simply awareness that is needed and I personally feel the scheme needs to be scrapped.

Naomi Dalby
Submitted 12th November 2018

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