Allowances must be made if disabled people are to have careers in TV, says Karen Hoy.
You don’t need to be severely disabled for it to have consequences for a career in broadcasting. Just as with other diversity issues, the challenges for the industry are recruitment and the will to change. But disability has an extra need - and that’s ‘the right to be treated differently’.
Because of this additional consideration, there’s a danger that disability will be the last of the diversity issues to be tackled, and within that, mental health.
My own disabilities are the remnants of severe ME, and I consider myself now to be only mildly disabled, as opposed to ‘ill’. But I’m sufficiently short of being fully able to need to be treated differently on many jobs if I am to contribute completely. If it’s a long contract, I need flexibility of hours or, even better, to be able to delegate certain tasks.
But whatever a disabled person’s needs, it needn’t impact on a budget. The government-funded Access to Work scheme is a fantastic and much underused facility that will often pay for 100% of the costs of letting a disabled person bring in support. And we have a ready freelance workforce that makes tailored help very easy to bring in when it’s needed.
But I do understand why there’s a barrier. We are irrepressibly can-do about getting who and what we need in front of the camera. And in order to focus on that priority, crewing means recruiting the people best enabled to do the job, who are part of a chain of least resistance to getting everything right on screen.
To my mind, this is exactly where the crux of the problem lies. If television decides - and it has - that it needs disabled people in production, then allowances will have to be made. If just a little bit of that can-do attitude can cross the line, allowing disabled people the support they need to use their skills as efficiently as their peers, then we will have solved the problem without compromise.
Karen Hoy is development producer/writer for Gilded Lily Productions