Producers Handbook

Disabled Contributors Welfare Guidelines

What follows is for guidance only and is not a substitute for production companies carrying out their own access assessments and taking responsibility for access and inclusion for disabled people when filming and working with them.

Introduction 

Channel 4 takes the duty of care towards its disabled on-screen contributors (which includes contributors, presenters and on-screen talent) very seriously, and these guidelines, read in conjunction with the relevant sections of the Ofcom Code and Guidance as well as the Channel 4 Duty of Care Guidelines, should be applied to all Channel 4 content including original and branded content for social media platforms. 

Channel 4 adopts a bespoke approach to the welfare of disabled contributors. Whilst disabled contributors are not automatically vulnerable or lacking in capacity, from the very outset content makers should think carefully about potential welfare considerations, following these three key principles:

  • ASK - understand the needs, requirements and preferences of all disabled contributors
  • ASSESS – identify any potential barriers to the welfare and inclusion of disabled contributors, whether physical, attitudinal or due to a lack of knowledge or experience within the production team
  • ADJUST - put in place ahead of time any and every reasonable adjustment to ensure the full inclusion and physical and emotional wellbeing of disabled contributors, before during and after the production process, to ensure that they feel comfortable and included, and are able to perform to their best.

Please remember that the welfare considerations of disabled contributors should evolve with the production and be continuously reassessed as the production continues and changes.

ASK

Since many long-term conditions, impairments, injuries and illness are not easily and immediately apparent, every contributor on a Channel 4 production should be asked (via email or in conversation) if they have any access needs, adjustment requirements or support preferences, as early as possible and as a matter of course.   

If the response is yes, content-makers should follow-up sensitively to acquire any necessary further information.  Given that every disabled person is different, their needs and preferences should each be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Many disabled talent and performers, or their agents, already keep this information to share with interested productions.  Content makers should ask them to provide this in written form.

Otherwise, content makers may wish to use the suggested Access Rider template (see below), as a tool for identifying the access needs, adjustment requirements or support preferences of all contributors in programmes, in addition to meeting Channel 4’s expectations to:

  • take the disabled contributor’s lead, and accept their word; avoid any assumptions and always give the disabled contributor control and agency
  • ask open questions to begin with, and then follow up with any specific questions for clarification
  • focus on the needs, adjustments or preferences, not the condition or impairment (which is personal information you are unlikely to need to know)
  • explain and prioritize the outcome that you are looking to achieve and then let the disabled contributor suggest and/or work with you to find the best process(es) to achieve that outcome
  • treat every disabled contributor with dignity and respect, building trust and actively making them feel comfortable and safe; never dehumanize, problematize or treat disabled contributors as ‘other’
  • always treat any information you are given by disabled contributors as confidential, only to be shared with their permission and with team members who have a practical or editorial need to know; include details of how you handle this information in your privacy policy with the contributor.

Content makers should remember that some of the information they are given will be health data which is “special category” data for the purpose of data protection. This type of personal data merits specific protection so they should ensure they process this in accordance with ICO guidance, including collecting this using an appropriate lawful basis, keeping it securely and not keeping it for longer than they need to.

Content makers should be aware that conditions and impairments can change and fluctuate, and that many disabled people have more than one condition or impairment, so it is always best to remain open-minded and flexible.  If you have any questions or concerns, a discussion should be had with the Commissioning Editor and, if necessary, the Creative Diversity team.

ASSESS

TV sets, studios and locations can be very unwelcoming environments to disabled people, for a vast array of reasons - from physical barriers, to sensory stimulation, to communication methods or lack of understanding among team members.  In addition, busy production schedules and early call times can cause particular exhaustion or other challenges for disabled people.

Content makers should be as clear and transparent as possible from the outset with disabled contributors about the physical environments, working patterns, communication methods and disability confidence levels of the context in which they will be contributing to any Channel 4 programme.  As and when these conditions change, disabled contributors should be kept informed. Disabled contributors can then make informed ongoing decisions about their participation, as well as suggestions as to what adjustments may be needed.

It is best practice to choose to work in fully accessible spaces and environments from the outset, especially where you know it is likely or even possible that you will want to welcome disabled contributors to take part in your programme, either now or in any future series.

Content makers may wish to use the suggested Access Statement template (see below), as a tool for assessing and communicating the physical environment, working patterns, communication methods and disability confidence levels of each set, studio, location and team involved in the production of a Channel 4 programme.  Where there are multiple environments and teams, they should prioritize the spaces and context which will be in primary use and/or directly impact on the disabled contributors involved.

Independent expert advice may need to be sought from an appropriately qualified specialist to assess sets, studios and locations for their accessibility and to recommend any pre-emptive adjustments. Depending on the nature of the production, different specialists may be required at different stages. 

Please note: it is not any disabled contributor’s duty or responsibility to assess environments or educate content makers on disability access and inclusion themselves; the onus is on content makers to create a safe, inclusive and accessible working environment in which any and every disabled contributor can be free to focus entirely on performing and contributing to their best.

If you wish to consult disabled contributors before filming – for example, to recce specific locations, to give feedback on language in scripts, or to block through sequences with directors & camera operators - the contributors should be renumerated for their time in the same way and at the same rate as they would be during filming.

ADJUST

Employers have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments to any elements of a job which place a disabled worker at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled workers.  Channel 4 expects that same approach of reasonable adjustments to be made for any on-screen disabled contributors taking part in Channel 4 content. 

Reasonable adjustments are considered workable solutions that are reasonable in the circumstances, to ensure that disabled contributors feel comfortable and included, and are able to perform and contribute to their best.

Once content-makers have asked about the needs, adjustments and preferences of any disabled contributors and have assessed their own environments and working practices, they should then have informed conversations with the disabled contributor(s) to agree which adjustments need to be put in place.

Identifying adjustments

Content makers may wish to use the suggested Access Plan template (see below), as a tool for identifying and recording the adjustments which all parties agree will be arranged for the disabled contributor(s), as well as establishing

  • how those adjustments will be put in place
  • who is responsible for putting them in place and ensuring they stay in place
  • who needs to know about them
  • how they will be communicated
  • if there are any anticipated significant additional costs attached (see below for information on costs & funding).

Content makers should be both pro-active and flexible as to the type of support a disabled contributor might reasonably require or request before, during and/or after production.  They should be mindful of both disabled contributors’ physical requirements and access, and their emotional and mental health, as well as their long-term wellbeing.

Equipment

All equipment brought in to facilitate access should be sourced from trusted suppliers, safe and fit for purpose.  There should be contingency plans for if and when essential equipment fails or does not arrive on time.

Support workers and chaperones

Background and DBS checks should be carried out for all support workers and chaperones before they are engaged to work with disabled contributors, including to ensure they have the relevant skills and experience.   They should always be paid for their time, even if they are friends or family members of the disabled contributor.

Costs & funding

Where possible, any significant actual or potential costs for reasonable adjustments should be anticipated and included within the original programme budget.  These should be discussed with your Production Finance Manager prior to the commission being submitted to the Business Approval Board (BAB).  Where the costs are anticipated they may be ringfenced as a Specific Contingency for use as required and agreed.

If significant additional costs for reasonable adjustments occur after the programme budget has been agreed, and the absence of those adjustments is prohibitive to the inclusion of a disabled contributor who otherwise would be cast in a programme, this should be raised with the Commissioning Editor and Production Finance Manager as soon as possible, who will explore funding options.

Access Contact

Where appropriate and possible, and with regard to staff welfare, content makers should nominate an Access Contact, a singled trusted point of contact within the production team with whom disabled on-screen contributors can liaise throughout and after the production process, and who will provide pastoral care.  

The Access Contact should be senior enough to be able bring about changes themselves, or to authoritatively represent the welfare of disabled contributors and advocate for them to the senior leadership on a production.  They should have received some training from an appropriate trainer in disability awareness and inclusion. Information on recommended training courses is available from the Channel 4 Creative Diversity team.

There should be clear processes for disabled contributors to ask any questions, suggest changes or raise any concerns with the Access Contact, and for the Access Contact to in turn communicate any changes or feedback with senior leadership and decision-makers on the production.

The Access Contact should be named on every call sheet, in a space dedicated to Access Information.  They should be approachable and available, and should regularly - but not excessively - proactively check with disabled contributors that they are comfortable, feel supported and included, and are able to perform at their best.  They should also offer general pastoral care for disabled contributors.

With each disabled contributors’ permission, key points from the Access Plan regarding their adjustments or preferences and any other pertinent information (eg location of the ‘quite zone’ on set, site of nearest accessible toilets, telephone numbers for more than one taxi company with accessible vehicles etc) should also be clearly identified on the Access Information section of every relevant call sheet - without explanation and in a straightforward manner.

It should not fall to the disabled contributors to have to remind relevant members of the production team of any reasonable adjustments or access support that has been put in place for them once this has been agreed; the onus is on content makers to make sure that the appropriate team members are consistently aware of any adjustments, support or needs, and that those are constantly in place.

Please be aware that many contributors may request adjustments to the working environment and/or schedule for other reasons other than disability but which are related to their identity or circumstances, such as religious observance or caring responsibilities.  It is best practice for content makers to be open to these requests as well.

Please note: the templates below are working, evolving documents which we are adding to as more important areas of access and inclusion for disabled contributors become apparent.  They are not intended to be exhaustive. Please check to ensure you have the latest version (according to the date last updated) if you chose to use them in following these guidelines.

 

Access Rider Template: for identifying the access needs, adjustment requirements or support preferences of each disabled contributor on a production

Access Statement Template: for assessing and communicating the physical environment, working patterns, communication methods and disability confidence levels of the set/studio/location and team involved in a production

Access Plan Template: for identifying and recording the adjustments which all parties agree will be arranged for the disabled contributor(s) on a production