New research by the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity (LHC) has found that 80% of disabled people working in UK television believe their disability has adversely affected their career, while 77% said their career options are limited by their disability.
The survey’s results were based on 86 disabled UK television industry professionals, including Senior, Executive and Series Producers; Heads of Development, Directors, Production Managers and Producers.
The Career Routes and Barriers for Disabled People in the UK TV Industryreport revealed that colleagues’ attitudes toward disabled workers and lack of employer understanding about their legal obligations were the most common barriers to disabled industry professionals staying and advancing in UK screen industry roles.
The report also found that around half (52%) of respondents faced practical barriers to employment and career progression, such as being unable to drive or physically use equipment, working hours, additional requirements (such as BSL) and support workers.
A lack of employer understanding about adjustments required by some disabled workers was found to contribute to these issues, with the report describing ‘consistent difficulties’ experienced by disabled people in the industry.
The report suggests that making some key changes will lead to higher retention of disabled workers and more disabled people working at a senior level in the industry.
Such changes include: the creation of an industry-wide system to help implement adjustments when disabled people need them; up-to-date training on equality law for all managers; and giving disabled people access to mentors, including other disabled people working in the industry, in addition to widening recruitment practices.
“It’s crucial that the industry acts upon what it is being told”
The report, commissioned by the LHC, was produced by Kate Ansell, a disabled journalist, writer and executive producer with over 20 years’ experience of producing current affairs and factual films for major broadcasters including BBC and Channel 4.
She said: “In this research, disabled people themselves describe the experiences they’ve had working in the TV industry, including the barriers they’ve encountered and potential solutions to the problems. What’s striking is the consistency of the experiences described and the simplicity of some of the solutions. It’s crucial that the industry acts upon what it is being told.”
Ansell’s research found that aspects of some entry level roles, such as runner jobs, can be a barrier to entry for some disabled workers. Some participants said they made the decision to continue in a potentially harmful role with negative physical or mental health consequences (without asking their employers for support or adjustments) to avoid damaging their career prospects.
Relocation was also found to present barriers to disabled professionals, as it can be difficult to source accessible accommodation and rebuild support networks. However, rejecting a relocation request could mean losing opportunities to accept contract extensions or pursue promotions.
Marcus Ryder MBE, Head of External Consultancies at Birmingham City University’s Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity, said Ansell’s work is a “timely contribution” to the inclusivity debate within the industry which “demonstrates a shocking basic lack of understanding of people’s legal rights”.
“I sincerely hope the industry takes note of the issues raised in the research and implements the simple and practical policy recommendations contained within it,” he added.