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Invi­sible Disabi­lities

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Scope equals equality for disabled people

Learn more from our ITV Able colleagues.

ITV’s internal colleague network, ITV Able, helps champion the disability agenda throughout ITV.

Learn more from some of our ITV Able colleagues who have shared their own experiences of disability.

Find out more about ITV Able here

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Peter Carter

Enterprise Platform, Principal Engineer

"Even when people are aware of invisible disabilities, they tend to pigeonhole based on broad categories, rather than considering people’s individual needs and abilities."

[He wears an oversized hoodie and covers his face with his arm] 'People often cross the road to avoid me. Sometimes, they’ll stop and take the time to point and laugh. Sometimes, I’m denied access to buildings. Occasionally, I’m even spat at or threatened. So what do you see when you look at me? Do you see somebody who’s on drugs? Do you see somebody who’s in an acute mental health episode? Do you see somebody up to no good? [He lowers his arm and takes off his hood to reveal his face] Or do you see a normal guy with an invisible disability who can’t go in sunlight?

When thinking about disability, I tend to find that most people trust their eyes. If they can’t see a disability, then they assume you don’t have one. Even when people are aware of invisible disabilities, they tend to pigeonhole based on broad categories, rather than considering people’s individual needs and abilities. In the past, I’ve had some really negative experiences trying to explain my disability to others. There was one occasion where I spent a good ten minutes monologuing to a colleague about not being able to go in daylight and the effects that daylight has on my body. He replied with a single rhetorical question: ‘so, you just get sunburned easily, then?’ That was a real moment of frustration and disappointment which for a long time afterwards, led me to avoid discussing my condition with others unless absolutely necessary. The conversation would have been a lot more productive if he’d been prepared to listen and understand what I was saying rather than jumping to conclusions based on the fact that he had never heard of my condition before.

In more recent times, the first time I discussed my condition with members of the ITV Able community it was like a breath of fresh air. They actually understood the challenges that I face on a day-to-day basis and they could relate to the low level discrimination that many of us experience. I think that’s one of the biggest benefits of the ITV Able community. Each of us are individuals with unique challenges, and, collectively we understand that and therefore understand each other. The work that they do to promote awareness of disabilities is fantastic.

If I could change one thing about people’s attitudes in general, it would be for people to treat everyone as individuals and consider the possibility that someone has a disability with its own unique challenges before jumping to conclusions and pre-judging people.'

Sameer Modha

Client Strategy and Effectiveness Lead

"Even the things that might seem most obvious, people’s experiences of disabilities can be really varied, so there’s no harm in asking ‘what would be most helpful for you?"

'There is a line in Clive Clive James's autobiography where he says… I’m not going to do an Australian accent…’There’s only one thing worse than thinking you’re different from everyone else and that’s thinking you’re the same as everyone else. And I know I’m guilty of this too but there’s a really basic assumption people make that other people are the same. Unless there’s some indicator on the contrary - if you can see it or see some hint of it or some consequences of it, you might be able to figure out that you need to do something differently. But without a clue, our assumption of sameness takes hold, and that assumption can be damaging, because it means we might impose expectations on people or make them feel uncomfortable in ways that we just haven’t imagined.

When I first discovered, as an adult of some years, that I had ADHD, with a bit of encouragement from my manager, I shared an email with the team talking about it. And I was blown away by how supportive people were. I got lots of encouraging messages, either sharing similar challenges they had had, or asking how they could be more supportive. So I wrote a little presentation summarising what I’d learned in the process of educating myself about ADHD and invited my colleagues. If I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting any of them to turn up, but loads of them came along. They listened and asked thoughtful questions and we had a great discussion about how to work together better. About how they can get the best out of me, and how I could adapt to working with them.

So, my guidance to someone who wants to be a good ally would be three things, I guess. Firstly, try and inform yourself more and read up a bit. A little goes a long way. Secondly, don't be too embarrassed or to shy to ask. And thirdly, maybe don’t assume that you know would be most helpful. Even the things that might seem most obvious, people’s experiences of disabilities can be really varied, so there’s no harm in asking ‘what would be most helpful for you?’

Lisa Doyle

Talent Executive, Daytime

"People assume that having a disability means that they can see it and that all disabilities look alike. The comment I find the hardest to deal with is, ‘you don’t look disabled."

'I once interviewed a candidate for a researcher job who felt the need to disclose their disability to me, and, in doing so they actually showed me that they too, had the same disability and it allowed me to share some of my experiences and also make them feel comfortable with disclosing their disability.

People assume that having a disability means that they can see it and that all disabilities look alike. The comment I find the hardest to deal with is, ‘you don’t look disabled.’ Now… people will often say that perhaps as a compliment, but more than often it’s to say that I don’t fit the stereotype that they believe to be somebody who is disabled. And what does disability look like? It’s different for absolutely every individual.'

Jack Ivens-Gardiner

Assistant Floor Manager, Daytime

"I think there’s still a sort of grey area and a sort of mystique about mental disability, learning difficulties, special educational needs, neurodiversity, and I think that that’s something that really does need to be improved upon."

'Hello, my name is Jack. I work at ITV as part of the floor management team in ITV Daytime and I have autism. I was diagnosed just before my third birthday, some...30-odd years ago. And erm...yeah, that’s me.

It is the assumption that unless you’re in a wheelchair, you’re not disabled. I think there’s still a sort of grey area and a sort of mystique about mental disability, learning difficulties, special educational needs, neurodiversity, and I think that that’s something that really does need to be improved upon, and classing it as a disability. I also think, as well people kind of think ‘disability’ is a dirty word. I think they feel that people are ashamed of owning their disability, being proud to be part of the disabled community, and I want to say that I am very proud to say that I am a disabled person. There are no bones about it - I have autism. I am disabled. Certain things in life are harder than people who do not have a disability, so it’s just a question of having to deal with that accordingly.

How to be a good ally to the disabled community. I think it’s .. the thing I always say when people ask me that, is don’t presume a person is doing fine. If they’re not saying anything, if they’re not raising their head above the parapet, that doesn’t mean to say that they are not finding things challenging, and I think it’s about not being afraid to ask those questions of a person - ‘what can we do to help you in your task?’, ‘what can we do to make things easier for you?’

Benjamin Walker

Activation Executive

"There’s a key point of raising awareness of how individuals should be educating themselves, especially in the workplace, on how disabilities can affect different people."

'Hi, I’m Ben, and my invisible disability is Crohn's disease. I was diagnosed when I was 18, and I’m currently 24, and when I was diagnosed, I literally had no idea what Crohn’s disease even was. And I think that’s an assumption that people currently make, as well. A lot of people don’t know what Crohn's disease is and don’t realise how it can affect one person from another. And I think people have the assumption, and especially what I’ve experienced is that I get the, ‘Oh, so, I have a friend that has IBS’ and I have to explain that it’s something completely different. And I think it’s good that I have that added flexibility and I have a manager, especially at ITV, that has knowledge of what Crohn’s is and how it can affect myself, as well as it can affect other people.

But I think there’s a key point of raising awareness of how individuals should be educating themselves, especially in the workplace, on how disabilities can affect different people. I’ve definitely had that in previous employment where I’ve explained to somebody that I’ve had Crohn’s, and they say. ‘Oh, it can’t be that bad,’ or, ‘You were fine yesterday.’’ And it shows that there’s not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to that. And that … disabilities affect people in loads of different ways, and by saying all of that to a person with a disability, it can actually invalidate how they’re feeling and make them feel that their symptoms or how they’re feeling within themselves aren’t valid, which can make somebody really, really uncomfortable and not actually enjoy the workplace that they’re in.

So I think ITV are really good at offering that added flexibility and making sure that you don’t feel guilty for having a time where you might need to go to a doctors appointment or where you’re not feeling 100% like you usually would. And I think that’s the key thing of changing perceptions around invisible disabilities and making sure that people know about different disabilities and where they can come from and, yeah.'

Dave Smith

Technical Support Engineer

"I think the assumptions that people make is that if they can see the disability, then the person is disabled."

'I think the assumptions that people make is that if they can see the disability, then the person is disabled. So when you see somebody in a wheelchair, you see somebody on crutches, you see somebody hobbling along, you see someone with a stick. Those are obvious disabilities to people. And people tend to be guided by the visual representation of what they can see. But the problem always comes, I find, when you’ve got somebody who has an invisible disability - like my partner, she has MS. And on the face of things, you know, she looks fine. She looks normal - I say ‘normal’, she looks like a healthy woman who’s, you know, going about her daily business. You know, she takes pride in her appearance and … like most people do, she takes pride in her appearance, she makes sure her hair’s done, her make-up’s done, and everything looks as good as she wants to be. But the problem is that she has very high fatigue levels that’s caused by her MS. So, she’s tired all the time. But we tend to get a lot of dirty looks, sometimes… I say ‘dirty looks’, we get people that look at us in certain ways if we part in a disabled bay. Cos she has to be quite close to the entrance to, like, the supermarket, say because when she’s relapsing, she doesn’t quite have any energy.

It’s OK, she looks good, but, you know, inside she’s literally struggling for every single step. She told me that it’s like walking through syrup. And even that’s not… you know walking through concrete or syrup and then you’re still fatigued. Everything you do is hard, hard work, and I try to … you know deflect those looks sometimes so she doesn’t feel bad, but it’s kind of like you think you should have a sign around your neck saying, ‘I’ve got MS, I’m disabled.’ ‘Please, you know, don’t judge me’, type of thing.'

Casey Shaw

Activation Manager

"Living with my invisible disability does challenge me every day, but it doesn’t define me and it will never beat me, and I hope people realise that I am more than my disability."

'Because of the effect that my rheumatoid arthritis has had on some of my joints, they don’t look like they did 20 years ago. And actually, somebody’s made a comment to me before - I can laugh about it now, but it really upset me at the time - and they sort of made the comment to say that looking at them made them feel sick. So, it wasn’t very pleasant to heat and it actually really upset me.

I joined the gym a few years ago and the trainer was taking me round the equipment and teaching me, you know, giving me a programme. I explained to him that I couldn’t bend my wrists, so there’s gonna be certain exercises that I’m not gonna be able to do. The very first exercise he tried to teach me I had to bend my wrist for and I just sort of had to repeat myself. And it was quite frustrating that he hadn’t actually listened the first time.

My advice for people who aren’t part of the disabled community would be to not make the assumption that you already know that an individual isn’t capable of performing maybe a certain task, or being involved in an activity. That’s not your decision to make. You need to speak to the individual and fully understand what their strengths are and what they’re capable of doing before you instantly exclude them from a particular activity or task. Living with my invisible disability does challenge me every day, but it doesn’t define me and it will never beat me, and I hope people realise that I am more than my disability.'

The Diversity Acceleration Plan: Disability

ITV is committed to ensuring we reflect the lives of disabled people on-screen and increasing the representation of disabled people in on- and off-screen roles working on some of our biggest shows. We will achieve this by:

  • Commissioning to ensure ITV better reflects the lives of disabled people on screen.

  • Improving the career opportunities for disabled talent working on ITV programmes.

  • Ensuring disabled people have entry-level career opportunities at ITV.

ITV is also committed to working with the Creative Diversity Network on the underrepresentation of disabled people and are continuing our efforts to meet the Doubling Disability target of 9% off-screen talent identifying as disabled across the industry by the end of 2021.

ITV is proud to be one of only two broadcasters to be accredited a Disability Confident Leader, in recognition of our continued commitment and work around removing barriers for disabled candidates.

Find out more about ITV’s Diversity, Equality and Inclusion commitments here

The Voice judging panel

Diversity and Inclusion

Increase diversity on and off screen by 2022

50%

Female senior leadership team, managers and all employees, as well as on-screen.

PLC board target: 30%

15%

Black, Asian or those from a minority ethnic background in senior leadership team, managers and all employers, as well as on-screen

PLC board target: 10%

12%

Disabled or with a longterm health condition in senior leadership team, managers and all employees, as well as on-screen

7%

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and more in senior leadership team, managers and all employees, as well as on-screen