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ScreenSkills animation report calls for action to improve accessibility for disabled

A report commissioned by the ScreenSkills Animation Skills Council in the UK has highlighted six recommendations to help the animation sector become a more accessible place for disabled talent to work.

Tom Box

The report, conducted by ScreenSkills in partnership with Manchester Animation Festival and the Visible in Visuals network, surveyed more than 120 people working in animation, with disabled animators reporting more problems than their non-disabled colleagues.

Key findings from the report showed 56% of disabled respondents disagreed that the animation sector is a good industry for disabled people to work in, while 30% of non-disabled respondents disagreed.

Sixty percent of the disabled respondents said they think disability cannot be discussed openly within the sector, versus 46% of non-disabled participants.

Fifty-four percent of all those surveyed disagreed that recruitment processes in the sector encourage applications from disabled people. Disabled respondents had stronger feelings about this, with 43% reporting that they strongly disagreed, compared with 27% of the total sample.

Seventy-four percent of disabled participants said they think the sector discriminates against disabled people, compared with 52% of the non-disabled respondents.

Those surveyed also felt there is not enough training to educate staff on the topics of disability, accessibility and inclusion. Seventy-two percent of the sample said they are not given training on how to create an inclusive workplace for disabled people. Forty-seven percent of disabled participants strongly disagreed, compared with 36% of the non-disabled sample.

Looking at whether the workforce discloses disability to employers, the sample was split between 50% who tend to be open about it and 46% who choose not to disclose.

Eighty-one percent of disabled respondents said they think the most important actions to take are to develop accessible and flexible career pathways and support flexible working, including homeworking.

Disabled respondents also pointed to other actions that could be taken, including the need for employers to uphold their legal responsibilities to facilitate reasonable adjustments and access needs, proactively inviting disabled staff to request it and promoting inclusive recruitment practices. Each of these measures was highlighted by 62% of participants.

Following these findings, ScreenSkills has made six recommendations to support the animation sector in becoming more accessible. First, it has advised those working in the industry to keep on monitoring and investigating disability.

Second, it highlighted the need to train staff to become aware of the issues around accessibility and disability, particularly key senior staff with line management responsibilities. Large organisations should lead by example, ScreenSkills said, so the industry can come together to create a community of practice where knowledge is shared and passed on to the smaller companies that operate under more stringent budget constraints.

Third, ScreenSkills urged the industry to encourage, facilitate and support disability disclosure, to stamp out fear of professional repercussions among disabled workers.

Fourth, it has advised the animation industry to provide guidance on flexible and tailored career development pathways.

Fifth, ScreenSkills pointed out that reasonable adjustments are a legal responsibility and a moral imperative, noting that The Equality Act 2010 imposes a duty to make reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled workers are not at a disadvantage.

Finally, ScreenSkills urges animation professionals to scrutinise their working practices, starting from the recruitment process, noting the industry should engage in a comprehensive review of recruitment practices and make sure staff involved in recruitment are trained on issues surrounding disability.

Tom Box, chair of the ScreenSkills Animation Skills Council and co-founder and MD of Blue Zoo Animation Studio, said: “This survey and the insights derived from it are invaluable in the mission of making the UK animation industry more diverse and inclusive. These statistics highlight in black and white how much work there is to do.

“Many of the conclusions seem to stem from visibility of the matter, either from the workforce being uncomfortable with disclosing information, or employers not being aware the impact of their apparent lack of support or awareness.”

Abigail Addison, ScreenSkills’ animation production liaison executive, added: “Having received and reviewed the report, ScreenSkills and its Animation Skills Council will work with the wider industry to create a forum for knowledge sharing and to devise appropriate training for senior management and recruiters, as well as opportunities for disabled talent, over the coming months. As an organisation we have recently audited our own policies and processes with the support of disability specialists thinkBIGGER! and welcome the opportunity to use our learnings to support others to reflect on their workplaces.”

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