Disability in broadcast: getting in and getting on

Emma Tracey, Claire Burgess and Dominic Hyams talk to Ben Toone about how they manage their broadcasting careers while also dealing with a disability.

Forging a career in TV, online or radio production is difficult enough, so it’s understandable how the addition of a disability might make someone reluctant to enter the industry. Ben Toone speaks to three guests who all work in the media while managing their individual disabilities.

The panel members discuss how their disabilities affect day-to-day working life – from the difficulty of not spilling the tea, to breaking the ice by asking colleagues if they will help take you to the loo! All three agree that being as upfront as possible is essential, and that encouraging others to ask questions is the key to setting your colleagues at ease.

“You have to manage others’ knowledge of disability.” – Emma Tracey

The show looks at the help available to media professionals with disabilities, such as the government Access to Work scheme, which can assist with arranging transport, carers and assistive technology. The scheme has a dedicated media team who are sensitive to the time pressures, travel requirements and unusual working hours of the broadcast industry.

The guests encourage media professionals with disabilities to be proactive, and demonstrate what they can do, rather than focusing on what they can’t. Taking a full portfolio of audio or video clips along to an interview shows that your disability is not a barrier to you creating great work. Letting interviewers know exactly what support you might require shows that you are knowledgeable about and at ease with your disability.

For those within the BBC, Emma recommends getting involved in BBC Ability, the company’s disability staff network. This provides help with accessing technology, getting around the BBC’s many buildings, and advice on career opportunities.

All three guests conclude that honesty, a sense of humour and a passion for your chosen career are essential.

Claire Burgess is a producer for the Drivetime show on BBC Radio Lancashire. Previously, she worked at BBC Radio Merseyside as part of the BBC’s trainee scheme Extend.

Dominic Hyams is an assistant producer at the independent sports broadcaster Sunset+Vine. He is currently working on the International Olympics Committee’s YouTube channel, and has previously worked on on Channel 4’s Paralympic coverage.

Emma Tracey is a producer for the BBC’s Ouch disability talk show, a monthly podcast with a candid take on disability. She is also active in the BBC forum for employees with disabilities, BBC Ability.