08.09.2022: Head of Volunteering and Skills Development at Attitude is Everything & UK Music Diversity Taskforce member Paul Hawkins writes about the issues facing disabled people and what steps employers can take to improve access.
Any conversation about disability representation in the music industry starts with a chicken and egg situation. Is the music industry reluctant to employ disabled people or are disabled people reluctant to work in the music industry? Either way, the UK’s 14.6 million disabled people are vastly under-represented in the sector.
At Attitude is Everything, we’re on a mission to change that.
Just over one in five working age adults in the UK are considered disabled under the Equality Act yet only 12% of respondents to UK Music’s 2021 Workforce Diversity Survey self-identified as being disabled or having a long term health condition.
Our own research shows that 50% of disabled people have withdrawn from recruitment processes due to a lack of accessibility, while disabled people who have faced barriers, discrimination and “expectation management” in education and early work settings may not feel confident that the music industry wants them at all.
Harbourside Management’s 2021 survey of 150 disabled people in the industry found that 90% felt that there was a lack of visibility of disabled people in the industry and 79% felt there were a lack of opportunities for young disabled people to begin music careers.
What’s more, when disabled people do work in the industry, they are often reluctant to be open about what they need. Two thirds of our respondents did not always tell their employers about their access requirements.
Harbourside Management found this translated to 88% of those with non-visible impairments. The main reason our respondents gave was a fear of stigmatisation but more than half stated they were afraid that their employers would use it as an excuse to end their employment. This does not necessarily mean that over 50% of music industry employers would routinely terminate disabled staff members, but it does mean they are failing to reassure people that they would not.
This fear of disclosure creates numerous challenges. Firstly it leaves visibly disabled people, who cannot choose to conceal their impairment, extremely exposed. Secondly, a person who isn’t disclosing their impairment is unable to ask for the reasonable adjustments they need. This can lead to frustration all round as disabled staff members aren’t able to perform to their full potential and employers aren’t getting the best out of their staff.
The consequences can go beyond poor performance. Harbourside found that 69% of those who did not disclose were putting their health and wellbeing at risk as a result. When your staff would rather make themselves ill than be open with their employer, it’s clear there is a serious problem.
Anecdotal evidence suggests this fear of disclosure is amplified when people face multiple forms of discrimination. Women and Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people are less likely to disclose an impairment. Unsurprisingly, people who already face discrimination do not want to risk exposing themselves to further prejudice.
In April 2020, Attitude is Everything launched Beyond the Music, a three-year National Lottery Community Fund-supported programme. The project has two goals.
- Firstly, to create a network for disabled people who are working in the industry to share experiences and ideas.
- Secondly, to help the music industry become more accessible for everyone who works in it.
We have an Accessible Employment Guide that lays out simple steps employers can take to make their workplace more accessible. We offer Accessible Workplace training to help make your recruitment, line management, meetings, policies and working culture accessible and we offer placements and mentoring to get new disabled entrants a taste of the industry. We’re happy to support anyone who wants to make their workplace accessible.
But we also want to empower the industry to take its own steps so here are five things you can immediately do to start making your workplace more accessible.
- Include access information in job application packs, so staff know that you are committed to making jobs accessible to disabled applicants.
- Be as flexible as you can be in terms of where, when and how people do their jobs, as long as they are achieving what is needed.
- Speak openly and positively about reasonable adjustments. Make offering adjustments a standard part of your organisational approach and celebrate them as a way to help staff perform at their best.
- Encourage teams to have open conversations about the environment and conditions they work best in and what helps them to perform at their best. Use these conversations to design agreements on office and meeting etiquette.
- Ensure you have a mechanism to get regular, honest constructive feedback from staff and that the feedback is listened to and considered by senior managers and directors.
Find out more about Attitude Is Everything here.Back to news