Are creative industries actually inclusive when it comes to young people living with disabilities?


Disability in the workplace is something that people, for want of a better word, tiptoe around. Yet, people with disabilities are willing to work, just as much, if not more so than the rest of society.

Organisations throw the word ‘accessibility’ around but what does it actually mean? A building can have a ramp, lift or escalator but does that really make it accessible? Do meeting rooms have loops and are websites written in large enough font sizes?

We need to rethink what it means to be accessible. For a workplace to be completely ‘disabled friendly’, not just facades need to change.

When we talk about accessibility and reasonable adjustments, often employers’ think of the physical. However if we are talking about accessibility across the board, we need to think far beyond the material and towards changing the mind-sets for how and what work disabled people are given.

The misconception of disability as being a ‘hindrance’ is a negative consequence of society’s attitudes towards people who are disabled. London is dubbed the cultural capital and it is swarming with millennials who are creative, passionate, hardworking AND disabled.

According to the 2014 Labour Force Survey, disabled people are now more likely to be employed than they were in 2002, but disabled people remain significantly less likely to be in employment than non-disabled people. In 2012, 46.3% of working-age disabled people were in employment compared to 76.4% of working-age non-disabled people. Which means there was still a 30.1 percentage point gap between disabled and non-disabled people, representing over 2 million people.

The creative sector is a place that claims to be innovative, open to all and pushing for freedom of expression, movement and medium. It has been an industry where people have flocked to in order to, not only speak out, but to feel listened to. But is this still the case, or was this ever the case?

Literature, music, dance, photography, theatre, sculpture, poetry and painting, are just some of the forms and unlike corporate jobs, they’re not [as] subjective. Art is what you make it. As Yoko Ono said, “I thought art was a verb, not a noun.”

Art forms should enable all people to reach their potential, but in actual day to day, do they?

In an interview with The Guardian, Grainne Peat, from the UK Cinema Association, said that she wondered if people hide their disabilities from employers to progress in the industry.

“There is a range of well-meaning schemes to get disabled people into the workplace, but little evidence of their long-term effect. We need more role models of disabled people portrayed in a positive light: not as victims, but as strong and confident people. There aren’t enough people in the industry showing the way for other people with disabilities. This applies both on and off screen; 15% of the population has a disability, but we don’t see that represented on our screens often enough. Disabled people have a unique way of looking at the world, which isn’t being picked up on”, she said.

Shape Arts is a disability-led arts organisation that believe all disabled people should have the opportunity to participate fully in arts and culture, and work with the vision of creating an inspiring and inclusive arts sector that is accessible to all.

Shape Arts develops opportunities for disabled artists at all stages of their career, trains cultural institutions to be more open to disabled people, and runs participatory arts and development programmes.

As part of their 40th anniversary celebrations, they have an event at the Roundhouse on the 1st July, for 16-30 year old young Londoners, who identify as disabled and want to get into work in the arts and creative industries. The event will focus on careers, access and creativity. Attendees will spend the afternoon networking, learning about accessible career options and jobs in the arts and enjoying workshops, performances, tours of the Roundhouse and conversations with top professionals from diverse cultural organisations including The Royal Opera House, The V&A, The London Theatre Consortium and more.

The day will commence with a panel discussion chaired by us at A New Direction, asking "How do we ensure accessible and inclusive career routes for young people living with disabilities in London's thriving creative economy?”

More information, and how to book a free ticket, can be found on our website.