Sunday, November 25, 2007


We have been waiting since to see 'August Rush' ever since we saw the trailers at the movie theatre. It opened here in the UK yesterday and we headed out to see the film first thing this morning. We went to the Trafford Centre, a shopping center whose imagination matched it's proportions. We found a disabled parking spot near the entry and headed in.

When we got to the kiosk to buy the ticket, the lovely woman who greeted us warmly, took money for only one ticket but handed us two. I'm immensely honest about these things and pointed out that she had made an error, we'd only paid for one ticket. She smiled and said that Joe did not have to pay for a ticket because he was my carer and was there to provide me assistance.

Off we went. My first thought was ... "Cool, free admission." Joe and I found seats and then he went back to get popcorn. I sat there, in the semi dark, and thought about his free ticket. I was really honest about her mistake about the money but was feeling dishonest about accepting the free ticket. Here's what went around in my head ....

Joe does provide me with assistance, getting in and out, getting popcorn and treats.

Joe and I had every intention of seeing the film, Joe is seeing it because he wants to, not because he's there with me.

Joe does 'care' for me but is not my 'carer'.

I probably make way more, I mean way more, money than the woman working at the theatre, I can really afford to pay for my ticket, Joe can afford to pay for his.

This is a benefit for all disabled people, let it go.

I'm kind of stealing from the people who made the movie.

It's an extra four pounds in my pocket.

I'm reinforcing disability stereotype.

Finally when Joe came back from getting the popcorn and pop, we talked about it. At first he was a bit annoyed ... the 'why do you always have to think about everything' kind of annoyed. Then after a few minutes he said that we should have refused the free ticket. Then a few minutes later he said, 'Well, maybe not.'

We agreed that we didn't know what was best to do ... or even if it matters a whole lot in the scheme of things. After the movie, which I cried through, we stopped for lunch and talked the ticket thing over again. Finally deciding to have a poll .... here on the blog ...

So here's the question:

Should people with disabilities who do not need a benefit turn it down? Should we have refused the free ticket and paid for Joe's seat?



Martijn said...

I think that depends on how it's offered. If it is standard policy at the theater to do this, why not accept it?
If they feel they have to give the discount, or if it is a lot of trouble to arrange it, personally, I'd decline it.
There's a big difference between abusing and using your disability.

A personal example: when I take the bus with a friend, he can ride free because he would be my helper. Even though I can go on and off the bus by myself (probably even quicker than when he'd help). I have no problem accepting this.

lilwatchergirl said...

Joe does 'care' for me but is not my 'carer'.

Goodness, this thought is similar to one I've been having all week. I need to write an Ouch blog post about it.

I am personally very happy to accept discounts at the theatre, cinema, etc. These places are generally so inaccessible to me that I feel I'm owed it. I usually *have* to take someone along with me to help me over steps and into badly-designed 'transfer seats' and to get drinks from the horribly inaccessible bar and so on. I see no problem in myself and my 'assistant' being compensated for this. If you see it in Social Model terms, it's quite acceptable. :)

Kev said...

Well, in this case, I would say, if Joe had not wanted to see the film, but you had, how easy would it be for you to attend alone? I'm guessing not very. And that's the thing. I often go to things with Mr Kev which I want to see as much as he does. But if he could not go without me, the entitlement to have someone along to make access easier is exactly what the free ticket is for. And my feelings the film/play etc are irrelevant in that context.

I suppose, in the end, it is a matter of personal choice though. You could have turned it down; I don't think that would be wrong. But you were still perfectly entitled to it.

And the ticket was only £4??? Now that is cheap. I need to move to Manchester. Immediately.

Tamara said...

I agree with martijn. Accept it. It's a good policy for those who do have a carer and for whom the extra money could cause a hardship.

So was the movie any good??

Bobbie said...

David, Joe - Hope all is well in Merry Ole' England, though I see you've been through nerve racking fire drills, and this, an ethical conundrum. Though the lover's story renews hope!

I had a long response to this ethical theatre issue and reduced it down to "300 characters", trying to fit it into the "email a friend" box though I did not know this at the time. (a newbe, here.) Anyway, here's my less than 300 character response:

Is free admission about sharing xtra costs of avg disabled or is it about the “have’s and the have not’s”? Back when, no legs might have meant no $/£. Praise helpful things, but encourage a newer, larger view. Write mgmt for a box at booth that reads "Ticket $/£ for Those Who Need It" period.

wendy said...

Hmmm...I can see why this is a dilemma for you. I see your concerns. I also see that the theatre is offering this "benefit" and it is probably better that they extend it to everyone with a disability rather than put people in the position of having to request it or make a case that they need it. That seems at least as bad as receiving it if you don't really need it. Just my thoughts...

Anonymous said...

I think it probably comes down to, would you be able to see the movie if Joe didn't come with you? If not, then you should definitely have taken the ticket, if you could then you should both pay. But of course that is only my opinion :)

Anonymous said...

No you should not have turned it down. It's a standard policy at most cinema's (at least here in Scotland.)The idea is about helping people with disabilities who need assistance get to places they would normally not get to without the additional cost.

If your conscience is having difficulty with it give the money to charity but it has taken a long time for there to be some recognition that disabled people (many of whom are in lower income brackets) have the right to access social events.

Nephesh said...

I agree, too, that you might want to consider if you would have gone to see the movie if Joe was not with you. And, I agree with the last anonymous poster. I'd donate the cost of the ticket to a cause close to your heart.

Anonymous said...

I say keep the ticket - on the principle that others may need the service and it would be too complicated to sort out who does and who does not get a free ticket.

Then for those who can, pay it forward!!

Anonymous said...

I suppose you and Joe could take a carer on your date that would do all the stuff Joe does, let Joe pay for the ticket and use the free ticket for the carer, but how dumb is that?! So Joe enjoyed the movie, big deal. I know that Joe is not your carer but lots of us are carers, and I'm really sick of being told that because I enjoy my job that I don't deserve to earn a wage that is reasonable. I go to many social functions and outings that I do not have the funds to pay admission for and have been able to "heaven forbid" enjoy myself at work.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

I'd say that you could have smilingly told her that Joe was not there in the capacity of carer, that the two of you thought you'd see a movie together and you expected to buy two tickets.

But it wasn't the ticket-taker's policy, it was her employer's. And no matter how nice you were, she could have been embarrassed, especially if she were sensitive to the fact that she inappropriately changed your and Joe's relationship to disabled person/carer. Then the next time somebody came in with a wheelchair and an extra person she would have felt some dread in applying her employer's policy, wondering if she'd get the same response only not so nice.

So in the end, I think it was best to leave it alone. Drop the extra money in the plate at church or something.

~ Teresa ~ said...

I think that the policy to give a discount is up to the owner of the movie theater. It is a nice thing for them to do. From the workers point of view using the standard policy is probably easier than trying to figure out whom would qualify. (Even though she shouldn't have assumed that Joe was there in the capacity of Carer) If you feel uneasy about it, perhaps you could "pay it foward" in some way. Now that I finished writing this, I can bet that other people have had the same opinion. Forgive the repeats... This is my opinion though! Take care...

rickismom said...

I often accept (even request) discounts for my daughter, simply because we pay TONS for her inclusion and education, and every cent is dear.
Yet, if you are really well off financially, I think you should have said "Thank-you very much, we really appreciate your manager's thoughtfullness, but we would like to pay for the second ticket as well."

Anonymous said...

I suppose the first question is as I think someone else has already stated. Could you have gone without someone else with you? (not would you, but could you?) Would going on your own have cost you more even if you could have pysically been there alone?

I think, considering how this made you feel, the tone in which it was offered and how that made you both feel is a good place to start (which I think you have done).

Something springs to mind though and that it about some conversations I have heard about self advocacy, not getting others to do things for you that you can do yourself and having the support you need to live your life independently. With that in mind if you didn't need it.. should you have accepted it????

I don't know actually as in my life I do things for people sometimes because it's nice, they don't need it, it's just nice. People aslo do that for me.. like collecting my children from a club, because they are going there too and it's nice, it don't need them to but I benefit from that as a nice thing. That too is OK. It sounds this could have been one of those things too, didn't need it but it was jolly nice of them to do it.

I don't think there is a right or wrong in this situation, all I wish for you is that you feel good about what you decide.

Katja said...

I tend strongly towards a means test philosophy - if the point of some sort of benefit (free admission, whatever) is to make up for a perceived difference in ability to pay, then go for a means test.

In the US, I almost never (in fact, I can't think of a single instance) encounter anything like this. In Europe, it's everywhere - movie theaters, museums, tourist attractions - you go to the head of the line and you pay reduced admission just because you're visibly disabled.

Jacqui said...

Each year, hubby and I "donate" money for a Xmas event for children with different needs (since a long time before my son was born). Each year since my son was born, we get offered free tickets to this same event through our service provider. We have never accepted the tickets but I often ask myself the same question.

Jacqui said...

Each year, hubby and I "donate" money for a Xmas event for children with different needs (since a long time before my son was born). Each year since my son was born, we get offered free tickets to this same event through our service provider. We have never accepted the tickets but I often ask myself the same question.

Kay Olson said...

I am curious how a theater knows how many vacant seats are left to sell when they give away seats this way. I mean, it does require keeping track of if it will be a full house, right? Unless Joe only gets a folding chair or the seat next to the wheelchair spot is always free.

I agree with others that it depends on if you needed Joe to attend.

Incidentally, I have never heard of a disabled person in the U.S. getting this type of discount. Anyone else?

marta said...

I would have accepted it, the same way that I accepted the offer of a seat in the subway while pregnant, even if I wasn't tired: this encourages people to keep offering, to keep taking care of.

Ashley's Mom said...

I don't think I would have taken it, but rather insisted on paying. I would have proudly stated that Joe was not my 'carer' but rather my partner. I have 3 children with disabilities, but I do not consider myself their carer. I am their mother.

Anonymous said...

If I am working and someone that I support wants to go to the movies, I do not pay addmission. I am going only in to support the person who needs my assistance. As a single mother of three who works as a direct support provider, I do not have a lot of extra money to be going to movies. If I do decide to go with my family I pay for myself even though one of my children uses a wheelchair and has a card that allows her "care provider" to get in for free.
However I do know of some people who do use the cards when out with family members because it is available to them and they can't afford to go otherwise. I don't see anything wrong with that.

Sue, Ontario, Canada

Judy in Kalamazoo said...

Should you have accepted, Dave? Well, they didn't ASK, did they? They just assumed. It seems to me that the theatre's policy should be to ASK: "We offer free tickets to those who are here to support a person with disabilities--would you like one?" It bothers me that they apparently assume the 'abled' person is there as a "carer"--as if a person with a disability couldn't possibly be attending a movie with a friend, just like anyone else.

Baba Yaga said...

There certainly have been times when I've declined assistance to which I was assured I was 'entitled', but didn't need - probably more often than courtesy would indicate! It can be a real problem. However, I don't think there is a 'should' in this particular instance; either course is defensible.

I'm also with the person who says that 'need' isn't necessarily the applicable criterion. Yes, one wants to be independent, one wants to steer clear of patronage, one wants to be honest, one doesn't want to be taken for a drain on society!; but I think sometimes those awarenesses make us feel that if we can do things the hard way, irrespective of whether we'd do it as often or with as much pleasure as the easier way, we have no need to have the easier way available to/smoothed for us.

I'm not sure that's a standard we'd apply to others.

There's also something to be said for accepting simple kindnesses, allowing others to do us the small favours which are part of normal human intercourse. Not in the spirit, "being nice to the poor disabled man", but of "these two blokes whom I can give an unexpected freebie". Gives the ticket-seller a little beneficient power. Getting entangled in moral niceties (important as they actually are) can blind one to the importance of allowing others to give what costs them little.

Louis said...

My answer will be repetitive, but I wanted to weigh in.

I think that you should have accepted the ticket, and made a point to thank the manager of the theatre for having this policy.

Stereotype or no, many disabled people are on very limited funds, and this sort of policy may make opportunities available that would otherwise be closed to them.

Then, since you have the means to have afforded the ticket, and were already planning to buy two tickets (the money was already 'spent' in your mind and budget), I also agree that if your conscience pricks at you, you could donate the money, either to a cause that is special to you, or else to one of the programs that makes this sort of discount available (a museum, or a children's theatre program, or etc).

Thank you for posing this question; it's very interesting to watch people discuss this sort of matter.

I am moderately (and progressively) disabled, and I work full-time at a well-paying job, but with my medical bills (United States and an HMO, so I have to pay for a large portion of my needs out-of-pocket), I am barely making ends meet (and sometimes *not* making ends meet; I've slept in my van before, so that I could afford to pay my bills).

Anyhow. There have been times when going to a movie would have been an incredible luxury that was out of reach. I think it's wonderful that so many places (from reading this thread) offer this sort of thing, at least overseas.

Take care and thank you for your blog; I read it daily,

joandnancy said...

Dave and Joe,

I think you should accept the benefit. Of course it was based ona stereotype that statistically people with disabilities are financially disadvantaged by their disability - but the way to fight that isnt to refuse to accept a £4 cinema ticket - the fight must be to have equal pay and conditions, access to employment and fight the prejudices. As you so eloquently put it at your workshop we are striving to be just a bit nicer, striving to respect that people with disabilities have a tough walk from here to there and so to make that walk a bit easier accept a free cinema ticket!
In addition the £4 would not have gone to film makers anyway - who God knows dont need the money in the billion doallr industry which does a general diservice to people with disabilities - ity would have raced the pockets of the cinema provider - whose popcorn and over priced confectionary Im sure more than made up the £4!

I hope the film was good?

As side issue i wonder if it would have been as easy for someone with s 'invisble' disability to be offered the free ticket? like someone with Aspergers who appears very able? Without the wheelchair how would you have shown you need a carer? And if you had wanted to see an 18 film with nudity or sex/ violence secenes would you have been offered the free place? Just throwing in some ideas...

Emma said...

Being from the UK I can tell you that it is a nationwide policy for cinemas and there is some card (I don't know what it's called) that you send proof of disability (benefit usually) and a small fee to get. It used to be if you just went in and asked they would give it to you.

We recently got a cinema here and I'd not been to the cinema for a few years but a friend had told me about the scheme and said she got her form for it at the same cinema I was going to. So I went in and asked for an adult and a carer ticket, explaining that I understood the scheme had come in and that I could get a form from them to apply. The girl swore blind that they had no such forms and she couldn't give me the discount without a card. Because as she put it if i "really needed one" the government would have given me it - how did she not know if i were faking. Needless to say we walked out and I have no intention of going back.

Emma said...

Oh yeah and when I got home I googled free cinema tickets UK carers and what did it say "forms can be collected from any cinema or via xx phone number"

Katja said...

Responding to Kay's question about this sort of benefit in the US:

My perception is that in the US, there is an ongoing attempt to reduce disparities, which, if successful (in some imaginary world), would eliminate the need to discriminate (in the dictionary sense, to treat differently).

In many Europe countries, my impression is that there is a sort of (tacit?) acknowledgment that the playing field cannot be leveled, therefore benefits like going to the head of the queue or free admission help to remedy the discrepancies.

Obviously a lot of it is cultural, and as an foreigner in Europe (who sometimes speaks the language of the country she is in), I've had my share of ridiculous conversations with museum personnel and whatnot - "We can let you in free, just show me your disabled card." "I'm from the US, we don't do disabled cards there." Then the person in authority just has to decide what to do, and since I would pay for admission at a similar institution in the US, it doesn't much matter to me what she decides.

Anonymous said...

The older I get the more I realise that there are some questions - quite a few questions - where there isn't a right answer. I think this is one of them.