Monday, July 24, 2006

Caregiving: companion seating at the movies

     With temperatures dropping into the 70’s with low humidity it was magical weather for a summer outing on Sunday. With Patti’s visual impairment symptoms a trip to the movies is always high on her list. “Monster House” was her choice and the richly animated Fall colors only reinforced the cooling outside temperatures. <grin> The film seemed like Stephen Spielberg trying to be Tim Burton and the end result was a fun 90 minute reminder not to grow up too fast no matter what your age. 

     Accessibility issues, specifically “companion seating”,  have led us to settle on patronizing this particular megaplex, Cinema Center. Certainly most theatres with stadium style seating have a row for wheelchair seating. Located in that designated row are additional fixed seats sometimes blocked in multiple seats and/or sometimes pairs with empty spaces at the end of each block for wheelchairs. The “theory” behind those end of block seats or pairs is for the convenience of companions/attendants of those attending the movie in a wheelchair. They are even designated with wheelchair logos painted on the sides of the seats.

     Seating in the designated accessible seating row is also for patrons who cannot climb stairs such as some one using a walker or cane. The larger blocks of seats are “in theory” for such patrons. Seating is easily accessible and they do not need an end seat or companion seat next to a wheelchair cut out.

     However “theory” and reality rarely match. Problems also rarely occur among disabled patrons and their companions. Confusion occurs with the able bodied, such as:

     “Oh! I’m sorry. My children prefer to sit here so they can get up and move around. They get so squirmy in regular seats.”

     “Oh, I’m sorry. My husband is tall and the regular seats are uncomfortable for his long legs.”

     “Sorry Dude! We didn’t see anybody in a wheelchair so we just sat here!”

     or my favorite ever … “We are so sorry. Does being an idiot count as a disability? (gesturing to her date) It was his idea to sit here.”

      Rarely do I even have to say anything, people see us, know they are in the wrong seats, usually apologize and move. In one of those rare cases I parked Patti in the wheelchair cut next to some “insensitive” strangers and went to get her concessions. When I returned the seats next to her were empty. After handing Patti her concessions, I had to try not to laugh as Patti recounted how the person next to her got all wigged out when she tried to share the popcorn and tried to take a sip of “her” drink. Then the person “rudely” took her popcorn and drink and left. (Which, in the real world, was his.) … To prove the world has gone mad, a woman leaned forward from the row behind us to “confirm” Patti’s story and thank me for getting her some more. <grin>

    At Cinema Center the companion seats are boldly printed in large block letter “COMPANION SEAT” across the cushioned back rest. ALL the seats in the accessibility row have bold wheelchairs emblazoned on the seat cushions. … and surprisingly there is never any confusion. I suspect the bold lettering versus the small wheelchair logo on the side of a seat causes someone to think before they sit.  

     Waking up to 63 degree temps this morning leaves me all the more convinced the Cumberland Valley may be Shangri La.


  1. LOL i love that she wanted her popcorn and drink :) that will teach them to not set in that set of seats again. LOL i love patti give her a hug for me. its hot here again in colorado. but get this the leaves on our sliver maple are already turning and are falling off scary its not even august yet


  2. what a delightful outing this must have been. Good for Patti for helping herself to popcorn. Glad it is cooling off in your part of the country; it was 108 in San Clemente which is a mere 15 miles from where we live on Saturday; my brother, further inland, said it was 113 yesterday. I think we have to wait a few more months before you could consider Southern California Shangri La.

    You have a great attitude when it comes to finding people in seats designated for the disabled and their companion. I think I would shoot them a look to those sitting there. Perhaps some day movie theaters could issue special permits for those who need such seating and those caught sitting there without their permits could be banned from the theater chain for life :)


  3. Bless her! Some people just don't get it do they.

  4. ....thanks for the great laugh!  Handicapped is a weird word! Wonder about the origin.  "Sit next to me, you have to share!" Love Patti's motto in life.....

  5. She's a darling is Patti I do love her look on life.  I'll have to earmark that film, Speilberg and Burton, quite a combination.  Our special needs seats are at the front of most cinemas and near exits for obvious reasons, I like the idea of having designated 'companion seats' that's a brill idea. Am very glad you had a good day.Rache


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