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More than 13,000 more disabled people need to join the British TV industry in on- and off-screen roles to bring it into line with the UK working population, according to a Creative Diversity Network report.

In this month's Diamond Report, which analyses broadcasters’ diversity data, notes that the proportion of disabled people working in senior roles has dropped from 6.6% in 2016-17 to 4.5% in 2020-21.

It acknowledges that contributions by disabled people rose to a high of 6% in 2020-21, up 5.4% year-on-year, but this was driven by improvements in non-senior roles (6.8% in 2020-21, up from 5.6% in 2018-2019).

The findings come amid industry efforts to improve on- and off-screen inclusion for disabled people. Earlier this month, the BBC pledged to “
endeavour to include at least one contributor, presenter or performer with a disability per series and in one-off programmes” across its output and also to focus on more inclusion behind the camera.

At this month’s Channel 4 Inclusion Festival, C4 chief executive Alex Mahon described disability inclusion as the “next frontier” for the TV industry.
As well as spelling out expectations in its disability code of control, C4 is training people specifically to understand and address access requirements, particularly on set.

A recent Creative Access report found that only a third of disabled creatives felt their employer had a supportive and inclusive culture, and a similar number felt they felt confident in progressing their career.

"Utterly dismaying"

On a panel at the festival, C4 chief content officer Ian Katz and BBC director of unscripted Katie Phillips both pledged to do more to attract, retain and improve accessible working conditions for disabled people.

Katz described as “utterly dismaying” and “shameful” the treatment faced by disabled creatives in a series of testimonies shown on the panel.

He said the evidence showed that despite a “real awakening and collective effort” to improve access and inclusion, the TV industry has “miles and miles to go and is not nearly good enough”.

Phillips said she had “naively” thought conditions were getting better for disabled people and was "really shocked” to hear a woman talking about the time she was left for hours after she vomited on set.

The exec revealed that everyone working on this year's Strictly Come Dancing received training that had been tailored to the needs of former contestant, the Paralympian Ellie Simmonds.

"Tip of the iceberg"

Deaf and Disabled People co-director Caroline O’Neill stated that some of the harassment that deaf, disabled and neurodiverse people face could be classed as hate crimes.

Writer and actor David Proud, who uses a wheelchair [pictured left in the photo, talking on set to fellow actors Ruth Madeley and Laurie Davidson] said the experiences described were the “tip of the iceberg”.

Meanwhile, at the Focus 2022 conference, disability campaigner Sara Johnson revealed that none of the 12 accessibility coordinators on the Bridge06/ScreenSkills training scheme is currently in a full-time role, which she blamed on misplaced production concerns about the expense of employing them.

She said 63 people applied for the first cohort and she plans to recruit 15 for the second round.

Finally, the TV Access Project plans meet with studios, post houses and facilities companies in the new year to start to set out plans to make workplaces accessible for disabled workers.

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