Frances Ryan, again:
I felt a strange mix of shock and weariness when reading comments by Jack Thorne, the screenwriter behind the new BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials adaptation, who spoke out this week about what he called the “invisible prejudice in the industry” towards disabled people.
“I sit in meetings pushing disabled talent and I’m told, ‘we don’t want to overexpose them’,” Thorne wrote in the Radio Times. “I ask that parts be specifically defined as disabled and I’m told we’ll see disabled actors for the role, but they are almost never cast. I write shows that are exclusively disabled-led and they get rejected.”
Most people would, by now, get the hint that maybe their particular passion or hangup isn’t shared by the vast majority of other people.
But that’s not a trait one ever sees in the likes of Ryan.
Disabled people have long called out the dire representation of disability on screen: more than one in five of us are disabled, but only 7.4% of the characters on television are portrayed by disabled people, and only 5.5% of those working behind the scenes are disabled.
Since there’s now no register of disabilities. I wonder just how these figures are arrived at. And do they count all those invisible disabilities..?
Improving disability representation will take practical measures. Lenny Henry has backed the idea of a “representation tax relief”, which would reduce the taxes on UK film and television productions that meet certain criteria for women, ethnic minorities or disabled people.
This sort of thing never works. Ever. And is just demeaning to actors hired for their ‘tag’ rather than their skill.
Disability diversity targets for drama schools, training programmes and agencies are also necessary.
Of course they are dear. Run along now.