IN the famous Roald Dahl stories, a boy called Charlie wins a "golden ticket" to visit a chocolate factory with his grandparents where he befriends the eccentric owner, Willy Wonka, and is whisked off in a "great glass elevator" on a never-to-be-forgotten adventure.

But when Lachlan Morris, 16, of Clackmannanshire wanted to go with his family to see the latest take on Dahl's story, Wonka, he discovered he would not be so lucky.

Lachlan and his family set out to see the film at the Vue St Enoch cinema only to discover that the only public lift – which, as a wheelchair user he needs to reach the screens situated a level above the entrance  – was out of order, meaning he could not access the cinema.
Lachlan has cerebral palsy and has no control over how his body spasms.  He needs a bespoke wheelchair with made-to-measure supports for his neck, pelvis and feet to keep him safe and enable him to get around.  Without it he would also suffer painful pressure sores. 

“The chair is so important,” his mother, Susan Love, who juggles a job with a full-time role as Lachlan’s unpaid carer,  explained to The National. “If he didn’t have it, he’d just fall off whatever he was sitting on so he needs the wheelchair space we booked."

The National:

A family outing is a rare treat so when she was able to find four places – including a seat for a wheelchair user and essential companion, the family was thrilled. To add to the celebration, they also reserved a table at a nearby restaurant afterwards.

Once it became clear the family would not be able to get into the cinema together, Love spent over an hour “running backwards and forwards” to try to find staff at the venue who could help them, either with a suggestion for an alternative entrance and when that wasn’t offered, with a refund – which according to Vue’s Terms and Conditions, the company will not honour if the tickets had been booked within two or three hours of the start of the film. 

'Nothing they could do'

“When I explained the lift wasn’t working – the staff member was to be fair, quite apologetic but not surprised," said Love. "Straight away they said there was nothing they could do to help us and that I’d have to call customer service.
“I tried the number they gave me. It was one of those automated telephone systems where you have to say a word to do with what you want to speak about – and it didn’t recognise any of the words I used. Nothing applied to us. It was a system that didn’t recognise that disabled people might have a customer service issue.
“It feels to me like the whole thing needs some sort of revision. It would be so much better if the company had some automatic way for when you book a wheelchair ticket, if there is an access issue, it would notify you before you decide to go ahead or not. That wouldn’t seem impossible to me."

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She went on: “It shouldn’t be so difficult to go to see a film. 

“Cinemas and shows are some of the few leisure activities that someone with Lachlan’s complex disabilities can enjoy – so we need them (venues and entertainment companies) to be extra welcoming.”
“It’s difficult to explain how many plates we as carers are spinning everyday and how exhausting life can be – so to have to spend extra time and energy on stuff like this makes it even harder. I just want my money back and for Vue to look at how it trains its staff and treats customers with disabilities in the future.”

Love said she waited several days trying to elicit a response from Vue on social media.

'Accurate information needed'

Kiki MacDonald, co-founder of Edinburgh-based online accessibility website Euan’s Guide – which has information and reviews of thousands of accessible venues across Scotland and the UK – says problems like the one encountered by Lachlan and his family are common. “About 20% of the UK population is disabled but no one talks about that.
“The most important thing when it comes to disabled access is sharing accurate information so disabled people know exactly what to expect when making plans. If you are a business or venue and making any changes around your disabled access, please ask disabled people first.”

READ MORE: Wonka ends the year at number one at the US box office
A spokesperson for Vue Group confirmed “the onsite team is unable to process refunds made on the website or app" and added “a notice alerting customers that the lift is out of order is displayed on both our app and the website and we are working with our technical contractor to resolve this issue as soon as possible.

They went on: “We are sorry to hear that the customer was unable to enjoy the big screen experience at Vue Glasgow St Enoch due to an unforeseen maintenance issue with the venue’s lift.
“We hope the family will accept our apologies and return for a complimentary visit to Vue St Enoch in the near future when the lift is fixed.”
According to St Enoch, the lift has been operational from Wednesday January 10.