ScreenSkills to fund training to support disabled UK talent and crew

Jack Thorne

UK TV skills body ScreenSkills is to fund training for new accessibility coordinators to support the hiring and working life of disabled industry professionals.

The support comes via its high-end TV skills fund and follows a recommendation from a recent report made by the Underlying Health Condition (UHC) disabled-led pressure group, which was set up to address accessibility in the TV industry.

With the ScreenSkills funding, up to a dozen coordinators could be trained and available by the end of the year. They will support UK productions in hiring and working with disabled talent and crew and support disabled professionals to work well and safely, with dignity.

As outlined in UHC’s December report, Everybody Forgot About The Toilets, the intention is for accessibility coordinators to be brought on from greenlight to provide direction and support to the production on the content, production base, studio and locations. They will then continue to work with heads of department, crew and talent as required to ensure there are no barriers to access for disabled crew and talent.

Training for accessibility coordinators will be delivered by co-leads Julie Fernandez, actress and disability creative consultant, and Sara Johnson through Sara’s company Bridge06, which has been working with UHC on the initiative.

Jack Thorne, the His Dark Materials screenwriter who raised issues facing disabled talent in his MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival last summer, is one of the founders of UHC, with actor and writer Genevieve Barr, production manager Katie Player and producer Holly Lubran.

Thorne commented: “ScreenSkills have been changing our industry for a very long time and to have them turn their attention to this means so much. Access coordinators are long overdue – a fifth of the population are disabled and, as the Creative Diversity Network figures show, that number is not reflected in the make-up of TV professionals.

“Intimacy and Covid coordinators have lit the path for positions like these to be recognised as essential. We must tell more disabled stories and we must empower more disabled people to tell them.”

Last month, ScreenSkill’s Accessibility in Animation report found that a staggering 74% of disabled animators in the UK industry believe that the sector discriminates against people with disabilities.

This funding pledge also follows ScreenSkills commitment earlier this week to invest more than £10m ($13.1m) of industry contributions from its high-end TV skills fund to meet training needs in the sector.

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