Theatres are being called upon to do more to cater for young audiences with a disability, after new research revealed that one in five parents who have children with special needs are made to feel uncomfortable at performances.
A study of more than 2,000 parents, of which 220 had children with special needs, found that families who had children with special needs were twice as likely to face hostility at theatres.
The survey found that 19% of parents with special needs children reported that staff or other visitors were unfriendly or had made them feel uncomfortable, compared to 8% of parents whose children do not have special needs.
Of the same group, one in 10 said they felt unwelcome at theatres.
As a result, 38% of parents believe venues do not do enough to cater for children with special needs.
The research was carried out by pollsters Censuswide and commissioned by specialist insurers Ecclesiastical, which operates in the arts, heritage, education and church sectors.
Faith Kitchen, the company’s heritage director, said: “While most theatres are inclusive and have done a fantastic job diversifying their offering to attract families with a range of needs, clearly more needs to be done to encourage parents and their children to visit these incredible places across Britain.”
Suggestions include offering specific quiet or loud times and designated areas to better cater for children with special needs.
Vicki Buchalik, who has a child with autism and is the founder of an online resource for parents with special needs children, said: “Simple things can make or break our day, such as a warm welcome, trained and approachable staff, together with an environment which has considered potential pitfalls and is supportive of our needs. People who are trained and understand disability can help to create a brilliant atmosphere and make days out a success.
“Theatres should consider offering special family memberships, installing better visual signage and using more accessible language to support those families who have children with additional needs, ensuring that they feel more comfortable and confident while visiting these inspiring places and encouraging them to visit again.”