Hot on the heels / wheels of our earlier story on parking for wheelchair users at Wembley, here is another story of unfair treatment that has a certain 'WTF?' air to it. James Ballardie of West Norwood is a fire hazard - but only when he visits Streatham Odeon.
The 27 year old local was not allowed to take his wheelchair to the upper floor of the cinema in early May when he tried to see Star Trek, due to staff adhering inflexibly to health and safety regulations. So he crawled on hands and knees across the first floor lobby, leaving behind his 'fire hazard'wheelchair.
Despite an apology for this shabby treatment, a second attempt to see a film on an upstairs screen earlier this month brought the same wheelchair refusal, declaring it an obstruction to others and a fire hazard. Ballardie had a reasonable way in - he could pull himself up the stairs using the handrail while his friends carried the nuisance chair, then they could store the chair out of the way in the auditorium while Ballardie enjoyed the film in a normal cinema seat - but this was not taken on board and he was asked to leave. Odeon have apologised (again) and have said more flexibility should have been used in the decision making.
Nobody likes being branded a 'fire hazard' but unfortunately for old cinema and theatre buildings, most things are a danger when modern-day health and safety regulations are applied to buildings that went up in the age of haphazard gas lighting and lead paint. Flexibility and reason are the only things that will make old buildings in modern use work; let's hope a late showing of these qualities make it to Streatham Odeon in time for the next slew of summer blockbusters.
Image by RachelH_ with permission