Staff at a cinema which made a man in a wheelchair leave because the sound of his life-saving ventilator was a "nuisance" are to be retrained in disabilities awareness.

Last week, the Epsom Guardian told how Duchenne muscular dystrophy sufferer Richard Bridger was asked to leave the Odeon cinema, in Epsom’s Upper High Street, because six people who were watching Taken 3 in the same screening as him and his carer had complained about the noise from his ventilator.

The 31-year-old from Epsom, who has extreme muscle weakness, needs to use his ventilator for at least 18 hours a day to keep his carbon dioxide levels down.

He left the cinema without being offered an apology or a refund, after a member of staff at the cinema approached his carer.

Mr Bridger’s story provoked disgust and disappointment with thousands of people reading our article on the Epsom Guardian’s website.

And following an initial apology by Odeon it has now confirmed that all staff at its Epsom branch will be retrained in disabilities awareness.

On Friday Richard Bridger’s father Steve said: "They have promised me that all their staff will be retrained in disabilities awareness.

"They have made a donation to Helen and Douglas House in Oxford, a respite home which Richard attends.

"They are going to send Richard a chocolate hamper and give us complimentary tickets.

"They have done everything they have promised. Apparently this went right to the CEO. They are treating it quite seriously.

"Now we want to raise awareness of disability."

In a statement, Jason Stanton, head of guest experience at Odeon, said today: "Following our apology to Mr Bridger last week, we have reminded the team in the Epsom cinema of their disability awareness training and of the extensive policies and procedures we have in place to ensure all our disabled guests can enjoy the films of their choice."

Steve Bridger said he and his son had been overwhelmed by the level of interest their story had attracted and that Richard was "pleased that this has brought disability awareness to the forefront".

His father said: "Integration of people with disabilities is just a priority really.

"Richard hasn’t got long to live. He wants a normal life.

"Everything is quite difficult for him. He can’t do what normal people can.

"He wants to go out and work but he can’t. Everywhere he goes he has to have someone with him. It’s a massive intrusion into his life.

"There’s so much more to it than just wanting to go to the cinema."

Steve Bridger said there were only 500 men, aged over 18, with muscular dystrophy in the UK today and that he was told his son was only likely to live until he was 18.

"When he was diagnosed at three-and-a-half we were told to make the most of his life up to 18. Now he’s 31 and that’s through advances in technology such as ventilators," he said.

"He has seen many of his friends die – five or six of them aged 24, 25.

"He’s one of the only ones left in his group."

He said life coukd be extremely frustrating for Richard, who has 14 GCSEs and a degree, because "you’ve got this brain that’s working but a body that doesn’t".

"It’s almost like being trapped in your body," he added.

Epsom Guardian:

Commenting online on the story, Kirstie Hunt said Richard Bridger was sitting in front of her and she had not complained.

She said: "This guy was sitting in front of me and my friends at the cinema and we did wonder why he left about 20 minutes into the film.

"Shame on you Odeon and also the people that complained.

"I would certainly like him to know that it wasn’t us that complained. This absolutely sickens me... move or better still just leave next time."

Claire Robertson, manager at Carers of Epsom, said: "What a very sad story to read in this day and age, what a distressing experience for Steve and Richard.

"Carers of Epsom hold a film club once a month for Carers and people with disabilities at this cinema and normally find the staff most helpful.

"I am glad to see more senior management within the organisation have apologised and would hope they will bring in some disability awareness training for all their staff."

Geoff Jelly, vice chairman of the Disability Alliance Network Mid Surrey, added: "The treatment this man received went wholly against equality legislation and I'm not surprised that a senior external Odeon manager apologised.

"Utterly unacceptable in the 21st Century."

Alessandra Oliveira Coelho, who worked at the Epsom cinema for four years, said she was "really sad" to read the story.

"I always saw managers and team leaders helping disabled guests, even going to car park to help with wheelchair to screens," she said.

"Some of that regular guests knew the staff members by name, as they used to be very helpful.

"Shame if the attention to guests has changed so much."

On Friday afternoon Odeon Cinemas posted on its Facebook page: "Earlier this week we were made aware of a very serious incident in our Epsom cinema.

"We have apologised unreservedly to Mr Bridger and his family and have also made a donation to a charity of their choosing.

"We are addressing the incident directly with the team at Epsom and ensuring necessary training is given to the staff and wider Odeon family to ensure this never happens again.

"We would also like to take this opportunity to apologise for causing any offence to our guests and those of you who have taken the time to express your concerns."

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