BBC marks the 25th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act with dedicated content and new commissions
The Disability Discrimination Act, passed on 8 November 1995, made discrimination against disabled people unlawful - the BBC is marking the 25th anniversary with a range of content across television, radio and online.
I hope that enabling disabled people to tell their often unexpected and surprising stories will challenge stereotypes and make us all think about the world we want to live in.
One in five of us is disabled and in the programming disabled people tell their own compelling and unexpected stories about their lives today.
The BBC’s Creative Diversity team is also hosting Reframing Disability on 19 November with a series of discussions featuring leading disabled actors, writers, producers, presenters, directors and global thought leaders. In addition, the BBC is today announcing new commissions with a disability focus for 2021 as well as further opportunities to progress disabled talent and enhance representation of disabled people on and off air.
- Content in November to mark the anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act includes packages across BBC News bulletins from BBC Disability Correspondent Nikki Fox and a range of documentaries and arts pieces including security correspondent Frank Gardner exploring his and others' experiences of suddenly becoming disabled for BBC Two; a series of powerful monologues curated by Mat Fraser with contributions from Liz Carr, Ruth Madeley and Jack Thorne for BBC Four; a new film also for BBC Four exploring the Disability Paradox around well-being levels among disabled people and how we can all enhance our quality of life; a radical reworking of Ben Johnson’s satire, Bartholomew Abominations and Connections, a series of monologues for BBC Radio 4, both featuring Graeae Theatre, a company which places D/deaf and disabled artists centre stage; and digital content showcasing some of the most exciting disabled influencers and voices online.
- The BBC’s Creative Diversity team is hosting Reframing Disability on Thursday 19 November with a series of discussions examining the representation and portrayal of disability on and off screen in conjunction with The Valuable 500 and the Disabled Artists Networking Community (DANC). The event will feature leading disabled actors, writers, producers, presenters, directors and global thought leaders including Caroline Casey, founder of The Valuable 500; Judy Heumann, American disability rights activist and star of Crip Camp; Greg Nugent, executive producer of Rising Phoenix; Nikki Fox, BBC News’ Disability Correspondent; Cherylee Houston and Melissa Johns, founders of DANC; Katie Piper, actress, campaigner, presenter and model; Anne Wafula Strike, Paralympic wheelchair racer; Charlie Swinbourne, director, screenwriter and journalist; Adam Pearson, journalist, actor and presenter; Ruth Madeley, actress; Mat Fraser, writer and actor; Edward Ndopu, activist and humanitarian; Alex Brooker, presenter and comedian; and Sophie Morgan, TV presenter.
- Our commitment to disability representation continues next year with new commissions including Able, a BBC Two documentary presented by Cerrie Burnell uncovering the hidden story of how disabled people fought for their rights and the return of The Break to BBC Three.
- In addition, the BBC today announced new participants for the Writers Access Group, as the successful initiative for talent disabled writers from the BBC Writersroom returns for another year
- Further initiatives to support disabled people include BBC Elevate which offers placements to production talent on flagship BBC shows, the BBC passport for disabled staff and the expansion of the 50:50 Project to monitor disability.
Charlotte Moore, Chief Content Officer, says: “The BBC has boosted its commitment to representing disabled people on and off screen and we are using the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act as an opportunity to put disabled talent front and centre this November. Our content now and into 2021 will be exploring the significance and impact of the Act as well as showcasing the creativity of disabled actors, presenters, producers, directors and writers. I hope that enabling disabled people to tell their often unexpected and surprising stories will challenge stereotypes and make us all think about the world we want to live in.”
June Sarpong, Director of Creative Diversity, says: “I am proud of the ongoing work by the BBC to reframe the portrayal and representation of disability on and off screen, but there is still much more work to be done and it will continue to be a major focus for us. Our Reframing Disability event next month will provide a space for honest and open dialogue lead by those already changing our industry, and will directly inform the work we will be doing on and off-air from April 2021 as part of our Creative Diversity Commitment.”
Nikki Fox, BBC Disability News Correspondent, says: “The 25th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act is an important moment to take stock and I’ll be providing analysis and feedback across the BBC’s news bulletins, exploring the significance of the act and its impact on the lives of disabled people now. Alongside my reports, I’m looking forward to disabled people sharing their stories and experiences across BBC networks this month in a range of documentaries, drama performances and digital content - it’s so important to hear such a rich variety of disabled voices.”
Marking the anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act
Being Frank: The Frank Gardner Story
Disabled writer and actor Mat Fraser curates a series of ambitious and exciting monologues, all written, directed and performed by disabled people. Each 15-minute monologue will capture a pivotal moment or event that forever changes the central character. Funny, thought-provoking and poignant, they explore the experience of being disabled in a powerful new way.
The series will feature Liz Carr (Silent Witness) and Ruth Madeley (Years And Years) and award-winning writers including Jack Thorne (His Dark Materials; National Treasure), as well as emerging talent, including Genevieve Barr and performance poet Jackie Hagan, making her TV acting debut. The monologues are fiction but they will be based on factual research and lived experience and they will span the last 50 years of British History.
CripTales is a BBC Studios Production. It was commissioned for BBC Arts and BBC Four by Lamia Dabboussy. Executive Producer is Debbie Christie.
The Disordered Eye
Locked In (w/t) is about a rare, life-changing illness. It's shot and directed by filmmaker, Xavier Alford as he learns to live with a condition that is slowly paralysing him. For over a decade he's been living with this illness but has never shared what he's feeling about it, not even with his own family. Now, as life becomes more difficult, he's finding the courage to talk for the first time.
In this intimate film, Xavier meets people at different stages of recovery from an illness closely related to his own, known as Guillain Barre Syndrome. In the most extreme cases people become temporarily ‘locked-in’ - entirely conscious but completely paralysed within days, unable to move or communicate with the outside world until they slowly start to recover.
But, Xavier’s chronic illness is irreversible - the paralysis spreads slowly over years rather than days - and there is no cure. Filming with others offers him a rare and at times terrifying glimpse into his own future. The people he meets talk candidly about what the illness does, not only to your body, but also your relationships with the people you love. At its heart the film reveals the importance of talking about the things that scare us most.
Locked In (w/t) is a BBC Storyville made by Rolling Marble for BBC Four supported by the BFI, Doc Society and The Wellcome Trust. It is filmed and directed by Xavier Alford. The executive producer is Sacha Mirzoeff.
The Disability Paradox
This new film explores fundamental questions about what makes us happy and how we can improve the quality of our life. Non-disabled people often take a sympathetic, even pitying view of those who are disabled. Disability can be associated with failure, dependency and weakness. There is an assumption that disabled people are therefore unhappy, miserable and even depressed.
Scientific research, however, suggests that this couldn’t be further from the truth - many disabled people report a good or excellent quality of life, despite the perception of non-disabled people that their lives must be difficult and bleak. It’s called the "disability paradox".
38-year-old filmmaker Chris Lynch has Osteogenesis Imperfecta and has used a wheelchair since the age of six. In this film, he interrogates this research, reflecting on his own experiences and examining if the disability paradox applies to him. On this very personal journey, he meets others living with various impairments to learn more about their experiences - are they as happy as the research suggests? Can you truly be happy if you are disabled?
Chris ultimately wants to look at quality of life and explores how this relates to body image, health and social norms. He meets Professors Havi Carel and Paul Dolan who explain some of the scientific research about what make us happy and provide some insights into how each of us could improve our own happiness.
The Disability Paradox (1x60') for BBC Four/Northern Ireland is being made by Triplevision Productions which is co-directed by Eamonn Devlin and Gerard Stratton. The BBC's executive producer is Fiona Keane.
BBC Disability Correspondent Nikki Fox will be marking the 25th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act with packages across BBC News bulletins looking at how disabled people fought for their rights by chaining themselves to buses and bringing parts of the country to a standstill, plus reflecting on how things have got better, or worse, with the protestors of that era. Nikki will also provide analysis and feedback to Your Questions Answered on the BBC News channel. In addition, there will be a special edition of the BBC Ouch podcast featuring a lively discussion with disabled people who remember life before they had civil rights and younger disabled people who've always had them.
There will be a range of articles on BBC News online and it will host an in depth feature with extended video footage of those dramatic disability protests from the time and find out more about how they did it.
BBC Radio 5 Live will host a dedicated Your Call phone-in.
On the day after the anniversary, BBC News will be releasing the results of a survey in partnership with YouGov which examines how disabled people feel they fit into society.
The BBC website and the BBC’s social media channels will be showcasing some of the most exciting disabled influencers on social media.
In a short to complement BBC Four film, The Disability Paradox, young disabled social media stars reveal how they are living the dream, and how their disability is a fundamental part of their success, not a hurdle to overcome.
In comedy sketches disabled talent explore the absurd, weird and less than wonderful things non-disabled people say to them.
And in series of Instagram carousels a range of influencers give top tips on how to make social media more inclusive, highlighting those words and phrases that definitely ought to be retired from general usage.
Afternoon Concert presents a week of concerts celebrating disabled composers and performers from 9-13 November.
In addition, there will be curated collections of content with a disability focus on BBC iPlayer and BBC Sounds; and BBC Scotland are repeating some of their documentaries on the subject.
On Thursday 19 November the BBC’s Creative Diversity team will host a series of discussions on LinkedIn Live examining the representation and portrayal of disability on and off screen in conjunction with Yhe Valuable 500 and the Disabled Artists Networking Community (DANC). Timed to coincide with the BBC’s inclusion month and focus on disability, Reframing Disability is a celebration of disabled talent within the creative industry and beyond. The event will leverage the convening power of the BBC to bring together leading creatives and their stories with the view to generate a pan-industry, solutions focussed conversation.
The event will feature leading disabled actors, writers, producers, presenters, directors and global thought leaders including; Caroline Casey, founder of The Valuable 500; Judy Heumann, American disability rights activist and star of Crip Camp; Greg Nugent, executive producer of Rising Phoenix; Nikki Fox, BBC News’ Disability Correspondent; Cherylee Houston and Melissa Johns, founders of DANC; Katie Piper, actress, campaigner, presenter and model; Charlie Swinbourne, director, screenwriter and journalist; Anne Wafula Strike, Paralympic wheelchair racer; Adam Pearson, journalist, actor and presenter; Ruth Madeley, actress; Mat Fraser, writer and actor; Edward Ndopu, activist and humanitarian; Alex Brooker, presenter and comedian; and Sophie Morgan, TV presenter; as well as leaders from the business world to explore whether there are any lessons the media industry could learn from them.
Reframing Disability follows the BBC’s two-day virtual event CDX in July, which showcased the vibrancy, innovation and leadership of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic talent in the creative industry, and aims to do the same focussed on the representation of disability.
Able: How Disabled People Changed Britain
In this powerful and moving film, author, actor and former CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell uncovers the long-hidden story of how disabled people fought for the right to live their lives as they wanted. It was a fight that would change us all. It would redefine what we mean by freedom, independence and respect. And yet it is almost completely unknown.
She’ll reveal how disabled people were locked away and had their lives blighted for decades. She will meet survivors of this cruel system, unearth documents that reveal official hostility and indifference and track down the pioneers who changed the system from within. She will also celebrate the lives of ordinary disabled people who helped overturn the harsh regime to change our country for good.
This impassioned, personal film will trace a tale of hidden injustices and reveal the pioneers who refused to be cowed by the system. It’s a story of injustice, cruelty, abuse and setbacks, but also activism and transformation.
From the fear of difference that gripped Britain in the early twentieth century to the struggle to discover what real freedom meant in the last 50 years and now, Able is a story of huge ongoing social change, using original research to reveal the reality of the struggle, and told through the hidden lives of ordinary disabled people.
Cerrie Burnell says: “I’m so excited to meet some of the people who took on the extraordinary fight to change the system and win freedom for everyone.”
Able (1x60’) was commissioned by Patrick Holland, controller BBC Two and Simon Young, Commissioning Editor, History and is being made by Blast! Films where the Producer/Director is Kate Scholefield, and the Executive Producer is Alistair Pegg.
The Break series five
Filming has begun on the fifth series of The Break, a short form drama series which aims to showcase bold, original, contemporary stories that reflect modern life in the UK. A collaboration between BBC Writersroom, BBC Three and BBC Studios, the films that make up the series will be available to watch on BBC Three. The series features disabled talent front and centre, not just as writers, but also directors and actors.
With the five writers already revealed, BBC Writersroom and BBC Studios Drama Production are delighted to confirm the further details, including the directors and actors involved.
- Losing It - written by William Barrington, directed by Aurora Fearnley, starring Nicholas Jacobsen
- WEED - written by Angela Clarke, directed by Darren Kent starring Holly Medić
- Rude - written by Annalisa Dinnella, directed by Aurora Fearnley, starring Niamh Longford
- BFF - written by Rob Kinsman, directed by Benedict Cohen, starring Kitty Castledine
- OH TONI! - written by Lettie Precious, directed by Bim Ajadi, starring Alexandra James
Progressing disabled talent and enhancing representation
BBC Writersroom announce participants in The Writers Access Group 2020
BBC Writersroom has today announced the names taking part in The Writers Access Group 2020, after the huge success of its inaugural group last year. The initiative gives talented disabled writers the chance to expand their writing skills and to be offered opportunities in TV and radio at the BBC.
Working with a number of organisations and practitioners in the field, thirteen disabled writers have been chosen on the merit of their scripts, their experience and via an interview process.
Following a pause because of Covid-19, BBC Elevate, the initiative to give disabled people with some industry experience the chance to work and gain further experience on flagship BBC shows, is back up and running again. There was a huge response and placements are now in the process of being setting up with the aim of placing the first wave of participants in the next six months.
BBC Disability Passport
The BBC has launched a new Disability Passport, a document which ensures anyone working for the Corporation with a health condition, disability or long term injury can get the right support and move smoothly between different jobs.
The Passport, a first for any major UK broadcaster, will aid employees in having sensitive conversations with their managers and help remove barriers to progression within the organisation by informing them about their disability so that when they move roles they have the support they need in place.
Discussions are ongoing with other UK broadcasters to roll the Passport out industry-wide so individuals can provide the document when moving between organisations.
The introduction of a BBC Passport was one of the recommendations made in the report on career progression and culture for disabled staff at the BBC published in November 2018, with the aim of raising awareness and creating a disability-friendly environment.
50:50 Project Expansion
The Director-General Tim Davie has called on BBC programme makers to expand the successful 50:50 Project methodology to monitor disability and ethnicity representation.
The initiative, which originated in BBC News, is voluntary for BBC teams and uses a data-driven methodology to monitor content and fundamentally shift representation within the media. Teams use a self-monitoring system to measure the gender of contributors in their content, which is now being expanded to include disability and ethnicity.
Guided by Tim Davie’s diversity targets for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (20%) and disability (12%) representation, teams will now look to build on the success of the Project and strive to include more diverse voices and contributors to better reflect the audiences the BBC serves.
In preparation for the expansion, pilots took place between March and October with more than 60 teams taking part and trialling different methods of collecting and monitoring data tailored specifically to their content.