Dragonfly Report Calls for Broadcaster-Funded Disability Pot

22 March 2022


Dragonfly Report Calls for Broadcaster-Funded Disability Pot

By Dragonfly

A broadcaster-led funding pot for specialised facilities, equipment and access coordinators are among the proposals included in a disability report compiled by Dragonfly, the producers of BBC2’s Then Barbara Met Alan.

One of Banijay label’s key recommendations is for the creation of an “access fund”, which would give productions involving disabled cast and crew money to help with accessibility access needs outside of the production budget.

The proposal would remove the requirement of having to go through the government support mechanism for disabled professionals, the Access to Work scheme, which the report claims is a bureaucratic and overly-long process.

Dragonfly head of docs and Then Barbara Met Alan exec Tom Pullen told Broadcast: “Access to work isn’t necessarily compatible with the freelance, short contract nature of our work.

“Should someone’s access needs cost more than what was originally anticipated, the fund would help to ensure that the show’s original budget remains spent on screen.”

Compile by Pullen and producer Bryony Arnold, Dragonfly’s report outlines the lessons and recommendations gathered while making the drama single, which tells the story Barbara Lisicki and Alan Holdsworth, two disabled cabaret performers who fell in love and had a baby before founding the Disabled Peoples Direct Action Network (DAN).

The series is written by Jack Thorne and Genevieve Barr who, alongside Arnold and co-director Amit Sharma, reflect disabled representation at senior editorial level.

Other recommendations include the need for access coordinators to be employed for the duration of across all productions to ensure that “that nothing ever gets overlooked” in terms of requirements for disabled cast and crew.

“Despite having a very high number of disabled people involved, there were still a lot of people who were not disabled, so having somebody from the disabled community to constantly remind us of things was vital. They spotted things that we couldn’t foresee,” said Pullen.

Dragonfly managing director Richard Bond added: “There is now a line in the budget for a Covid coordinator and intimacy coordinator and the same should be true for an access coordinator.”

Talent database

The report also calls on a centralised substantive resource for disabled talent, noting that “not many agents represent” disabled actors.

“We were compelled to go the extra mile to find talent on and off-screen. Other projects would benefit from some sort of list of disabled talent,” Bond said.

Arnold, who runs the Deaf & Disabled People in TV group, also devised a ‘disability crib sheet’, which went out every day during production, to provide crew with a guide of how to think and talk about disability.

Additionally, while the BBC provided a disability awareness course, the report calls for “mandatory training modules” to ensure staff have a certified, “better understanding” of disability in TV.

“Not everybody has worked with somebody who’s disabled in the industry,” said Arnold. “All the crew who were disabled came away having that new perspective and will take those lessons forward.”

Pullen said that while are lots of junior and entry level schemes to encourage people with disabilities, these don’t exist as you climb the ladder.

“If there aren’t senior opportunities and training to move people up the ranks, then it’s hard to get to those heads of department roles,” he added.

The report has been shared with BBC and Netflix, the commissioners of the drama, and Banijay. Bond said: “Those we’ve shared it with have been enthusiastic about its value and we’re happy to give it to anyone who’d like to read it.”