A selection of blue, red and yellow shapes.

HR & employer resource: Disability inclusion in creative industries

Posted on November 28, 2022

1 in 5 of the working-age population are classed as disabled and the number of people reporting a long-term health condition or disability is rising; largely driven by an increase in mental health conditions. Only 54% of disabled people are employed, compared to 82% of non-disabled people[1].

Some issues around employment and access to opportunities for disabled workers and job seekers are common across all sectors:

  • Low levels of representation in the workforce and lack of role models at senior levels
  • Recruitment processes that regularly create obstacles for disabled job applicants
  • Fewer opportunities for career progression
  • Lack of awareness and difficulties in getting employers to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the workplace
  • Fears of being devalued if disclosing a disability or condition

The nature of the creative industries can make all these problems more acute. The working environment can be fast-paced and often staff are on short-term contracts and working towards tight deadlines which are apt to change. Career progression is not as linear as in other industries and informal networking still plays a large role. All of which can make those living with certain conditions feel the impact of their challenges more keenly. However, with the appropriate level of understanding, reasonable adjustments can be made to improve the accessibility of roles and opportunities.

Creative Access report findings

The results of a survey of the Creative Access community in 2022, published in a report on disability equity in the UK’s creative industries showed:

  • Only a quarter of disabled respondents feel they have access to the contacts and networks
  • Less than a third feel they have the confidence they need to progress their creative career and are optimistic about the opportunities for progression

Whilst we acknowledge that the creative industries – in which disabled people are under-represented – do throw up many challenges, it also presents opportunities for companies to become trailblazer and lead the way in establishing the best approaches supporting disabled employees to thrive.

The Equality Act 2010 states employers must make reasonable adjustments to support disabled job applicants and employees, this includes support progressing in work. 88% of our survey respondents cited the two biggest barriers to their creative careers were:

  • Employers’ understanding of making adjustments to allow them to work better
  • Awareness of disability issues amongst non-disabled colleagues

What disabled candidates and workers are saying…

We asked candidates about tactics to improve the accessibility of the creative economy to disabled people. The most important thing was that employers be responsive to employees negotiating a working pattern that met their individual needs; over three quarters of respondents cited that they’d like:

  • More flexible working
  • Training for line managers in supporting disabled employees to thrive

Next steps – considerations for HR and employer disability inclusion

There is a pressing need for creative employers to improve access for disabled applicants and support progression within the sector. We’ve cited our top tips below, but you can read the full report and recommendations here: Disability equity in the UK’s creative industries

  • Base your approach on universal principles that benefit the entire team, so disabled people are not always requiring differentiation. This might include a general respect and curiosity about what enables all staff to bring their true selves to work, or the completion of Wellness Action Plans that are an easy, practical way to support mental health at work
  • Review use of imagery in presentations, in marketing material and on your website
  • Audit policies and procedures around recruitment, training and promotion to flag up any barriers
  • Audit your staff to ensure hiring and line managers sufficiently understand their legal duties towards disabled people as set out in the Equality Act 2010 If using third party recruiters, ensure they are compliant with the measures set out in the Equality Act
  • Check your marketing collateral; are the fonts and colours disability compliant? Is the text conducive to neurodivergent reading? Is your website accessible for people using screen reading software?
  • Consider making adjustments to your application procedures; not everyone is able to complete the conventional application form and a formal interview with a panel of interviewers can be daunting for many people. Allow applicants to see interview questions in advance, provide photos of panels and opportunities to visit the building
  • Ensure you paint a realistic picture of life in at your organisation and within the sector during the recruitment process
  • Undertake appropriate team training, eg, for example: embracing neurodiversity, cultivating empathetic conversations around mental health, disability equity to ensure staff are more aware of what ‘reasonable adjustments’ can and should be made
  • Consider running a Positive Action schemes specifically aimed at recruiting disabled people
  • Review working hours and patterns and provide opportunities for flexible working


[1] ONS Labour Market Status of disabled people, May 2022