Signpost Productions are breaking down barriers

Signing ITV News (Credit: ITV)

At a time when ­producers and broadcasters are working hard to ensure diversity in their workforce as well as on screen, the team at Signpost Productions in the North East of England can claim to be ahead of the curve. Eleven of the company’s 23 full-time staff are deaf or have another disability – physical, chronic or hidden. Between them, they produce more than 1,000 hours of signed British Sign Language (BSL) translations a year for programming on three major broadcasters, including ITV.

Disabled representation: Is TV finally starting to listen?

Credit: BBC

Watching two disabled people make love on prime-time terrestrial TV is something many disability campaigners thought they’d never see. But last month, in BBC Two’s widely praised drama Then Barbara Met Alan, we witnessed the eponymous Barbara and Alan enjoy being intimate in a scene that may well go down as one of the most powerful and moving moments of TV drama in 2022. 

Our Friend in the Pennines: Katy Boulton

In the spring of 2020 I found myself, like so many other freelance folk, workless and incomeless. A friend kindly sent me details of a role at an organisation called TripleC DANC. I confess I had never heard of TripleC, and – realising they were Manchester-based – I idly wondered if “DANC” might be a reference to the weather.

In fact, TripleC is a disabled-led company that works to strengthen access and inclusion for deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people in the arts and media. The “DANC” bit stands for the Disabled Artists Networking Community, TripleC’s professional strand.

Why the small things matter: Adjusting TV for accessibility

One of my first TV shows was about endangered animals around the world,” recalls presenter Ade Adepitan. “When I met with the producer and director, they told me: ‘This show is going to involve scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, trekking through the jungle in South Africa and Namibia, and hiking up mountains in Romania. We don’t want you to feel under any pressure, but is this something you think you can do?’ I said: ‘When do we start?’ I’m the sort of person who takes things on and then finds the solution as we go along.

Twenty per cent: TV's need to improve representation and inclusion of disabled people

Screenwriter Jack Thorne’s deeply affecting MacTaggart lecture in August left the UK TV industry painfully aware of its failings over the employment and representation of disabled people. The RTS Cambridge session “Twenty per cent” – the proportion of the UK population who are disabled – was therefore particularly timely.

Twenty Percent with Sinéad Burke, Alicia Dalrymple, David Proud & Briony May Williams​ | RTS Cambridge Convention 2021

Disabled people make up 20% of the population in the UK and yet are still the most underrepresented in our industry. In this session, Sinéad Burke, Alicia Dalrymple, David Proud and Briony May Williams discuss the progress made in representation of disabled people in the industry so far, the shifts needed to increase representation and discuss how inclusion should be normalised in the industry.


Rosie Jones and Deborah Williams question where the disabled people are in TV

If you want some light reading, please do not dip into the Creative Diversity Network’s recent report, “Diamond: The Fourth Cut”. The statistics are grim, particularly when it comes to disability. According to the report, the UK TV industry has “urgent” work to do on disability representation, both on- and off-screen. This is an understatement of monumental proportions.