Michael McEwan: How the GFT is making film accessible for fans who have autism

CommonSpace columnist Michael McEwan has good news for cinema-goers from the GFT

MANY of us enjoy going to the cinema to watch a good film , but for people who are on the autistic spectrum this is more difficult.

With this in mind, the Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT), in conjunction with National Autistic Society Scotland, has set up The Access Film Club. Its format includes film screenings and post-film chat in a friendly and welcoming environment.

A popular and inclusive film event, The Access Film Club is designed to engage with people aged 15 and over who welcome a relaxed cinema environment. For people who have autism, Asperger's syndrome, learning disabilities and/or difficulties in processing information, a relaxed environment is the best way to enjoy a film.

The Access Film Club runs every month, offers related information literature, and there are at least two volunteers with autism on hand to answer any questions on the day.

The Access Film Club runs every month, offers related information literature, and there are at least two volunteers with autism on hand to answer any questions on the day.

Each screening always has a mixture of people and ages coming along; the club is not exclusive and it is important that everybody feels welcome to attend. At the GFT, they celebrate diversity and make sure that people who enjoy the style of a relaxed film screening can find that within the club.

The GFT hosts the club in a screening theatre which seats 60 people, or 57 people if they have two wheelchair users attending. This is the screen which has been voted most comfortable by cinema goers.

The club starts at 6pm and is on for about two hours, and are no trailers at the beginning of the film. The film starts straight after the introduction.  

The lights are on as you enter the screen, and then during the film are dimmed to low level. The sound levels are turned down slightly, people can sit where they feel most comfortable, and members can leave the screen and return at anytime.

There is a relaxed zone if someone needs to leave the film and be in a low, calm space. When the film is over the lights are made brighter and there is a chat about it, led by trained autism facilitators.

There is a relaxed zone if someone needs to leave the film and be in a low, calm space. When the film is over the lights are made brighter and there is a chat about it, led by trained autism facilitators.

Tickets are £5.50 per person, but there is an option to sign up online for a CEA card, which allows a support worker, carer or companion in for free. More details and how to apply can be found here.

The Access Film Club periodically runs special events and will always have a film screening as part of it, possibly with an invited guest speaker or another arts event at the end.

The National Autistic Society Scotland is the leading charity for autistic people and their families. It provides information, support, pioneering services, and campaigns for a better world for autistic people.

To find out more about the work they do, you can visit their website. If you have any further questions on the club, or any suggestions for a special film event, contact the public engagement coordinator at the GFT, Jodie Wilkinson, on jodie.wilkinson@glasgowfilm.org

I think this is a good idea and I wish more cinemas would introduce this, to enable people with autism to see the films they want to see, in an environment they feel most comfortable in. 

This flagship club in Glasgow is a good starting point for inclusive cinema going. 

Picture courtesy of STV News

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