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The handbook aims to improve representation of disabled people in the music industry as a survey finds half have withdrawn job applications over accessibility concerns.

Musician José André performs

Library of Congress Life

A toolkit to eliminate barriers for disabled people in music is "a huge step forward in demystifying some of the assumptions employers make".

Disability-led charity Attitude is Everything (AiE) released its accessible employers guide this week, a comprehensive handbook on ways to better include disabled workers who may struggle to advocate for themselves.

A survey conducted as part of the guide's development indicated about a quarter (27%) of people in the industry who are Deaf, disabled, neurodivergent or experience a physical or mental health condition concealed this from their employers.


Four in five believed barriers related to their condition had affected their career, while half felt it had prevented them getting a role they applied for.

Half had also withdrawn from a job application process over accessibility concerns: "I often find job offers are suddenly unavailable when I ask about access adjustments," one study participant said.

Ben Price at Harbourside Artist Management said the statistics on disclosure in particular were "alarming".

"We know one of the main reasons for that from an employee perspective is fear that an employer wouldn’t know where to start."

Recent research by UK Music found one in five disabled people had faced discrimination working in the music industry.

"The accessible employers guide is a huge step forward in simplifying and demystifying some of the assumptions employers sometimes make, and will hopefully be a valuable resource for the industry going forward," Price said.

'Just ask'

The fastest, simplest way to improve accessibility is to ask what employees need.

This central message was conveyed by speakers at a launch event on Tuesday (May 18): "Simply asking in your job adverts 'what are your requirements, what are your needs', it costs nothing," Association of Independent Music Membership Manager Jude McArdle said.

Harry Jones, a freelance accessibility consultant, agreed.

"You don't need to ask personal questions about specifics, you just need to know what they need to do their job."

The guide, designed for organisations with limited HR expertise and tight profit margins, gives advice on enshrining accessibility in recruitment, interviewing, induction, line management, performance assessment and working environments.

It recommends incuding information about the physical workspace on job listings, having a three-person interview panel, and giving candidates the interview questions ahead of time.

AiE Head of Volunteering and Skills Development said the organisation sends job interview questions a week in advance.

"It means your job interview isn't a bullshitting contest; it means people can go away and give answers they've thought through rather than the job just going to whoever is best on the spot."

Neurodivergent candidates can benefit from having both an email and phone contact number on an advertisement, and from having the option to apply via video or audio recordings.

On representation

The work does not end once a disabled worker is hired. Workplaces should "understand that everyone works differently", promote flexible working arrangements, discourage excessive overtime, and provide frequent opportunities for staff feedback.

AiE's research found "other people's perceptions of my capabilities" were the biggest barrier to disabled people's success in the workplace. Fear of being stigmatised was the primary reason 65% of those surveyed chose to hide their impairments.

Robin Millar, Chair of leading disability charity Scope UK, said other research has shown 53% of people admit to feeling awkward when speaking to someone with a disability.

What's more, people assume disabled workers need more leave and don't stay in jobs as long when in fact the opposite is true, Millar said, imploring companies to "please look at the stats that come out about performance of businesses that do employ disabled people".

Employers should ensure their team is representative of their potential - not actual - customer base, the guide says.

"If you are not reaching a particular demographic of the community - and that demographic is also underrepresented amongst your staff - the two may well be connected.  

"One in six people in the UK are disabled. If few people in your organisation have a shared experience in the needs of one in six people in the population, that should be considered a weakness within your organisational structure."

As part of its work, AiE has established Beyond The Music, a network of Deaf and disabled music industry professionals and a venues advisory group with the expertise of organisations like the Barbican, South Bank Centre, Brighton Centre and Manchester Arena.

Hawkins of AiE said: "I think the industry has the will and the ability to get this right."