Disability in TV is in the spotlight this week with the launch of the Bectu-backed Disability by Design campaign and writer Jack Thorne’s pressure group Underlying Health Condition.
Campaign group Deaf and Disabled People in TV (DDDPTV) and Bectu Unscripted are launching a joint campaign, supported by actors' union Equity. Disability by Design: Representation in TV draws on a survey of more than 200 professionals, conducted by researchers at Bournemouth University.
The two groups are publishing a series of anonymous testimonies over the course of this week, while Underlying Health Condition, which Thorne, Genevieve Barr and Katie Player set up to improve conditions for disabled professionals, has its formal launch on Friday.
In a Disability by Design roundtable this Thursday, presenter, actor and activist Alim Jayda, Equity’s equality and diversity officer Ian Manborde, Prospect union's head of legal Marion Scovell and lawyer Chris Fry will discuss the issues facing professionals with disabilities. Register for the event here
Meanwhile, The Guardian has published a string of testimonials from disabled people working in front of the camera and behind the scenes in TV, including a producer describing inacessible workplaces.
In their report, DDDPTV and Bectu Unscripted paint a picture of some employers paying lip service to their responsibilities, with tight timescales and budgets sometimes resulting in freelance managers not being trained in how to manage staff with disabilities.
One respondent said starkly: “Without more realistic budgets – and this is a broadcaster-down issue – and timescales, it will never be sustainable for disabled people to have a career in television,” while another said the default attitude is to “take the path of least resistance”.
Some 60% said they had come up against ableism and discrimination, more than half of whom (55%) said employers had made ability assumptions based on their condition or impairment and one in four said they had experienced bullying or harassment.
“Before I had disclosed my disabilities I was treated normally by the entire crew,” said one anonymous respondent. “As soon as the production manager found out about my disabilities, she treated me completely differently - assuming I was no longer capable of completing particular tasks, giving me less work and talking down to me.”
Meanwhile almost half (47%) of this sub-group had been confronted with ableist language and microaggressions. Examples given included invasive questions such as ‘did your mum take drugs when she was pregnant’ and a senior series editor saying: ‘I’m not having any cripples on my show’.