Alan Clark would love to see the latest blockbusters at the theater, but he can’t thanks to his sensory processing disorder. “Between the loud volume and the lack of subtitles, how am I supposed to enjoy a movie when I’m in overload? Sure, there are sensory-friendly screenings, but the options are very slim.”
These screenings, established in the mid-2000s, reduce the noise level and the lights for the sake of disabled patrons. There is a distinct trend among them, and it is that the films are usually targeted toward children and the parents who accompany them.
“Look, I’m not saying this is a bad thing as a whole. But it’s rather infantilizing when my only options are pointless remakes of classic films or the latest animated sequel for those way younger than me. The practice as a whole implies that disabled adults who could benefit from sensory-friendly screenings don’t exist. Disability erasure is one thing on the screen, but it’s worse in real life.”
The owner of one of the two local theaters, who requested anonymity, said there were no plans to accommodate adults any time soon. “Yeah, we’ll put up a warning on a scrap of paper if a film has flashing lights so that epileptics need not apply. But requesting a sensory-friendly screening of ‘Deadpool’ or arthouse films? There’s no audience for that. Disabled people can either watch the ‘Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile’ movie or get out of my face.”
So, what to do? Aside from continuing to ask theaters to accommodate disabled adults, Clark has taken matters into his own hands. “I do host a film night at home with a few friends. It helps that I can adjust the volume and subtitles and also pause for bathroom breaks and stuff. We just streamed ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ on Friday. And if I do go to a sensory-friendly kids’ screening, it’d better be worth my while. After all, ‘Paddington 2’ is actually a masterpiece.”