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Disabled seating etiquette at the movies

Original post made by Companion Seat, another community, on Feb 19, 2017

This is for the woman who attended the 7:30 PM showing of LaLa Land at the Redwood City movie theatre with her disabled daughter (who was in a wheelchair) and another child on February 18.

I get it. It's not easy. I was also attending this screening with my disabled, senior citizen husband who is recovering from cancer surgery. You know the one...the older gentleman who struggled to get up and shift over a seat to accommodate you. Did you notice him? We arrived quite early and he wanted to sit in that row, rather than have to climb the stairs up to the other seats. I don't usually sit in that row, because I design theatres for a living. I know that those seats should be used only by patrons who are less physically able than others. And then I realized...oh, that's us - he's disabled and I'm his companion - it's o.k. for us to sit here. I'm just getting used to the idea that my husband is disabled. But I told him he couldn't sit in the companion seat next to the wheelchair space, because if someone in a wheelchair came along, they are entitled to have a companion sitting next to them. So he sat one seat over and I sat next to him.

You walked in just as the previews started, armed for bear. You strode in front of the row and announced, in a peeved tone to all sitting there, "Are you handicapped?" I saw your daughter in the wheelchair and I pointed to the vacant companion seat and said, "There is a companion seat right here." You then complained that you needed more than one companion seat and you threatened that you could "just call the usher." Some other folks, embarrassed, moved away (I don't know if they were disabled or not, some disabilities are obvious and some are not, so I don't judge.) My husband offered to move over. He needed my help to get up and move, but he did so that the other child that was with you could sit next to you while you sat in the companion chair next to the child in the wheelchair.

You didn't say 'thank you.' You didn't ask, "Please."

While I'm sure your life is hard (I grew up with a severely developmentally disabled sibling, so I know how hard it can be managing simple daily family life when a family member is disabled.) But...I can state plainly that you were rude. And unkind.

You treated the people in that row the way that you probably wouldn't want to be treated yourself. You made assumptions.

You also didn't give yourself enough time to get there early and secure appropriate seating. Maybe you weren't able to. Maybe just getting to the movies on time was a struggle? It's entirely possible.

But you treated a disabled senior rudely. And you did this in front of your daughter. I wanted to call you out, but I didn't want to do it in front of your daughter.

But I'm telling you now - you could have asked. You could have said, "Can you please make room for a person next to the companion seat - I need to be next to the wheelchair and this child?" Instead, you accused, blustered and threatened.

My daughter-in-law is disabled. She has a hereditary joint disorder that makes it hard to walk. She lives with a lot of pain. She is in her mid-twenties and she is not in a wheelchair. She wasn't at the movies with us tonight, but if she was, she would have been sitting in one of those seats, looking young and not looking obviously disabled. And you would have paraded in front of her asking, peevishly, if she was "handicapped."

Not cool.


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