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Four British filmmakers launch pressure group Underlying Health Conditions and reveal a report on accessibility issues in the audiovisual industry

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- Writer Jack Thorne, actress Genevieve Barr, production manager Katie Player and producer Holly Luban launched the group at the Tate Gallery on the occasion of the International Day of Disabled Persons

Four British filmmakers launch pressure group Underlying Health Conditions and reveal a report on accessibility issues in the audiovisual industry
l-r: Jack Thorne, Genevieve Barr, Katie Player and Holly Lubran

Last Friday, four British filmmakers – writer Jack Thorne (the TV series His Dark Materials, The Accident and This is England ‘90), actress Genevieve Barr (the TV series The Silence and The Accident), production manager Katie Player (the TV series Hanna, Churchill [+see also:
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) and producer Holly Lubran – launched a new pressure group called Underlying Health Conditions (UHC) at the Tate Gallery in London on the occasion of the International Day of Disabled Persons. Moreover, the group revealed a report on accessibility issues in the audiovisual industry, aimed at supporting disabled professionals both in front of and behind the camera.

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The report, based on surveys completed over the course of six months in co-operation with campaign groups DANC, Creative Diversity Network (CDN), DDPTV and the US-based 1in4 Coalition, highlighted several key findings for the industry. The group disclosed that 78.8% of British studios don’t have a hazard warning surface at the top of stairwells to prevent the blind or visually impaired from injuring themselves, and 90.9% of them do not have tactile buttons, signs or maps to allow people to navigate spaces independently. Presently, there is only one facilities company in the country (among the survey’s respondents) with an accessible toilet facility, meaning that only one production in the UK taking place at any time can provide disabled professionals with access to a toilet. It is worth mentioning that only 45.85% of those contacted by the group responded to the survey.

In terms of concrete steps to overcome these challenges, the report recommends that all high-end TV productions have an accessibility coordinator on set who can deal with any reasonable adjustments that need to be made for the cast and crew, as well as the creation of an additional line to cover general reasonable adjustments that can make productions more accessible, whether on sets, locations, unit bases or offices. Specifically, UHC suggests a sum of £5,000 (around €5,850) applied on a sliding scale for smaller productions.

The group also advocated the opening of a one-off fund to enable facilities companies and studio spaces to ensure their equipment (such as honey wagons and trailers) and buildings can accommodate disabled people, recommending, among other things, the installation of proper disabled toilets, quiet rooms, ramps and clear signage. They also suggested the introduction of a 0.1% levy, modelled on the HETV Skills Fund, which similarly takes a 0.5% levy from these shows. This levy would allow the creation of a disabled freelancers’ fund helping professionals to access financial support for equipment and the reasonable adjustments they require, without it falling to the production.

The launch at the Tate Gallery was attended by a number of TV executives, ministerial representatives and over 100 disabled screen-industry professionals.

In a joint statement, Thorne, Barr, Player and Lubran said: “Disabled people make up 20% of this population, and yet the Creative Diversity Network found that disabled people are under-represented at all organisational levels, making up just 7% of television employees overall: 8.2% of on-screen representation, 5.4% of people who work off screen and, at the top, just 3.6% of executive producers are disabled. The deficit in those statistics is felt and translated through the television box – to those sitting in front of it. One of the major factors in this lack of representation is the dire state in which we find ourselves in our basic working conditions. Not having a safe space to work in, nor the facilities needed to carry out our creative roles, down to the nitty-gritty of not even having the most basic of human rights – an accessible toilet!”

On the same day, the UHC joined Coalition for Change, a body seeking to improve working conditions in the UK TV sector, along with Equity and Time’s Up.

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