Being a freelancer in the creative industries can be hard at the best of times as often your chasing fees after invoicing or you’re emailing around, trying to find that next job, but imagine having to do all that and living with a disability.
In the creative industry you can be somewhere for a day, a few days, maybe longer and then you move on to the next job, if you have one lined up. If you need reasonable adjustments its harder, if you need something like information on coloured paper, that sometimes is impossible even if you offer to provide it yourself. If you need assistance because you use mobility aids it can be arranged as it is a visible, yet you can’t see a learning disability. It doesn’t help that access to work, or a disability passport would take possibly a few months to arrange and by that time you’ve left that job and gone onto the next and the next and faced the same issues over and over again.
Companies and broadcasters are slowly making it easier for disabled workers to apply for jobs but when I was starting out that always wasn’t the case, even if I asked for help or reasonable adjustments, they weren’t available. As part of BECTU’s disabled members network I have done some work but that got put back due to the pandemic and the limited work and job ads in the industry. Some companies will make adjustments in the application process. This can look like someone from the company ringing you and typing up your answers to the questions on the application form then sending it over for you to copy on to your application form, others will just have simple forms where you just select your answers.
Disability is not a one size fits all. Each person is different. The individual needs to be assessed as we all have different requirements even if have the same condition. The individual will know more about their abilities and limitations, they are the one who live with them every day so making assumptions may result in adjustments that are needed being missed. Disabled people don’t bite, and we are humans too, so just ask.
I am part of a fabulous Facebook group for those in the industry and have a disability where we can vent, talk openly, get advice, network and have online events with companies and broadcasters. While we have some fabulous on-screen/stage talent Alex Brooker, Rosie Jones, Emily Owens (currently in the ensemble on Les Mis UK tour), Cherylee Houston, who is involved in DANC which is a disabled artists networking community, to name a few, we also need to celebrate the off screen/stage talent as they can be undervalued and underrepresented in the creative industries, which is why being a member of BECTU is important.