Successful day Conference and Launch of UKDHM on Portrayal of Disability in Moving Image Media.

Very successful day Conference and Launch of UKDHM on Portrayal of Disability in Moving Image Media.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell gave an audience of TV and film makers, actors and disabled people a strong message of support at the British Film Institute yesterday evening the 19th Nov 2015.
He said that the ‘New politics’ that Jeremy Corbyn and he were developing was based was based on treating others the way you wanted to be treated. In the past the Labour Party had focused on improving bread and butter issues for disabled people and that they had not understood that portrayal and the way it influences attitudes was more fundamental as it was this that led to discrimination. That now we will need to look at specific mechanisms for change this may include quotas and training to change portrayal and representation of disabled people in the media. There was now an open door to policy making in the Labour Party that there had not been before. (See for the speech 17.30 to 26.00 mins).
John gave three political commitments:-
• The Labour Party will set up a policy dialogue with the organisations and individuals that disabled people think can make a constructive contribution on this issue. You need to advise us who should be round the table.
• We will go through policy making of the Labour Party nd ensure the issue of portrayal and representation of disability is inserted.
• If he had anything to do with it there would be a Manifesto commitment on representation as a foundation stone of how people perceive disabled people. We missed this out in the past.
Lastly, there was a campaigning role for all of us to bring attention to these issues and achieve solutions.
Philipa Harvey, President of the National Union of Teachers, conveyed the support of the union for the work of Disability History Month and said how the union was informing teachers of the need to raise the history of disabled people with children. Philipa also pointed out that a recent survey the Union had conducted showed many disabled teachers were being discriminated.
Elenor Lisney of Sisters of Frida talked about how images of disabled women on the screen had influenced her when growing up.
Richard Rieser, Coordinator of the UK Disability History Month talked about historically rooted stereotypes of disabled people based on myth, magic, superstition, religion and pseudo science that shape attitudes and are continually recycled. While there has been some isolated examples of good representation where we are just presented as ordinary; too often a new stereotype of bringing disability into narratives is considered as a ‘prosthetic’ to a weak storyline. There were more disabled actors and film makers but they were not being used anywhere near enough in broadcast media and film.

Richard then reported on the main conclusions of the Day conference. There should be tapered quotas to grow from 10 to 20% as the pool of talent grows. There needs to be more targeted training and work experience. Cuts in Arts subjects in schools and colleges should be reversed to develop the talent pool. All relevant union Equity, BECTU, The Writers Guild and Musicians Union should be pressured to do much more to gave portrayal of disabled people in the media. Acting for Change should be supported. Those who own and manage at a top level the broadcast media and film making must be approached and pressured to do more.
Earlier the Day Conference heard an analysis by Richard Rieser (Coordinator of UKDHM) of Image Portrayal using 34 film clips. This was followed by three panels of actors, writers and producers/directors/casting directors heard very interesting presentations and discussion . Participants included actors Sam West, Danny Sapani, Jaye Griffiths Liz Carr and Lisa Hammond; writers Laura Wade , Allen Sutherland , Rahila Gupta and Micheline Mason, Produces Ewan Marshall, Colin Rodgers, Ju Gosling, Paul Darke, Shirani Sabratnam, Colin Rodgers ; Director Ben Anthony and Casting Director Ros Hubbard.
There was general agreement that thought there was more portrayal of disabled people it was still far too little, often not realistic and stereotyped. There were disabled actors, writers and film makers out there but they were finding it very difficult to be b included due to many barriers. Currently BBC portrayal is 1.2% of the time whilst over 20 % of the population count as disabled people. The negativity and lack of realistic portrayal encourages negative attitudes, bullying and hate crime which is two or three times the level for other minority groups.
The following were agreed as a way forward
• Quotas – 20% should be disabled people. These to be tapered to keep up with the skill base from 10 to 20%

• More training – on and off screen

• Training live presenters with disabilities (Ade had 6 months extra training)

• Champion alternative voices – real life stories (challenge people to see things differently)Acting for Change

• Hold to account those who run and control the media – particularly publicly funded bodies

• UNCRPD – Article 8 implemented

• More support/funding for disability art events, especially at community level

• Need programmes which put forward the view of the disability lobby

• Pressure on the unions to be more proactive (e.g. Musicians Union, Writers Guild, BECTU, Equity, NUJ)

• Something like Turner Classic Movies (US) which showcase films with disabled characters in them – something for Film 4 and BBC to consider?

• Utilize new technologies (internet) to create pro-disabled media – there are businesses seeking to support new alternative platforms (training/experience both off and on camera)

• A new take on access is needed

• If films are state funded then they must be fully accessible to all.

• Challenge audiences to challenge their thinking e.g. Scope End the Awkward Campaign

• Question why ordinary supporting roles are not given disabled people.

For more information contact Richard Rieser UKDHM Coordinator Mobile 07715420727
e.mail or

For Review from Disability Arts on Line of the Day go to