Working with Disabled Employees and Artists

The 2001 census showed that disabled people comprise almost a quarter of the population of Wales – but fewer than .05% of employees in the arts are disabled people.

Disabled people are used to being creative about the way their lives are organised; alternative ways of working and new approaches to creativity could be of real benefit to the arts.

Recruitment

Action points

  • Check design of job advertisement. An easily readable ad will attract more applicants
  • Word the ad so that disabled people are encouraged to apply e.g. “We welcome applications from disabled people, who are currently under represented at Mountainside Arts”
  • Advertise in the disability press and disability arts press and use e-newsletters and notice-boards
  • Give a range of options for prospective applicants to contact the organisation e.g. phone, fax, email, post
  • Application pack available electronically, on audio-tape and large print as well as on paper
  • Invite applications through these mediums too
  • Check essential and desirable criteria for person specification, e.g. Does the applicant really have to drive? Is it sufficient that they are willing to travel? Disabled people may be unable to drive for various reasons, but they may employ a driver, or be able to use public transport
  • Ask all shortlisted applicants to let you know of any specific access requirements for interview, and make necessary arrangements accordingly.
  • Send information about access at the office / venue. All applicants should receive this basic information. If your backstage or office is accessible, it’s something to highlight!
  • In interview ask all applicants if they have any access requirements at work – or “Is there anything specific that you will need, or that we can do as employers to make the workplace accessible for you?”

Did you know? The Department of Employment has an Access to Work Scheme to help with costs associated with a disabled person’s employment.

Working with disabled artists

Disabled artists, performers, writers, workshop leaders may work with your organisation on an occasional basis. Programming work by disabled artists will often help to build an audience of disabled people.

Action points

  • Send information about access at the venue. All visiting artists should receive this information. Highlight any specific access features, but also be honest about the facilities. If access to a certain part of the building is via three steps with a handrail, say so.
  • Ask all visiting artists if they have any access requirements, even if people have not previously said that they are disabled.
  • If in doubt about the precise requirements, check with the person concerned well in advance.
  • Pass on information about artists’ access requirements is to relevant people within the organisation.
  • Check with the artists on arrival and during the project or visit to ensure that the access arrangements are appropriate.

Best practice

Every organisation should run an annual audit of staff and trustees’ access requirements. The same questions should be asked of every person, even if they have not said that they are disabled.

  • When planning the audit, ensure that the focus of your questions is on access / what the employee needs / what the employer can do.
  • Don’t focus on medical issues. Asking “what’s wrong with you?” won’t help you to get the access right. Each individual’s needs are specific to them, and may not be what you assume.

Further Information

Employers Forum on Disability’s website

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