Press quizzed on disabled staffing

Disability Now: wrote to all national newspaper editors last week

Disability Now magazine has launched a campaign to try to find out how many disabled people are employed by national newspapers.

The move follows the results of a DN survey of media colleges in the summer, which showed there were very few disabled students on journalism courses.

In the survey, which was backed by the NUJ, the magazine quoted a journalism course leader at De Montfort University, Leicester, saying the industry was “not a warm, supportive environment” and there needed to be a “fundamental cultural shift” in the media’s attitude.

DN editor Mary Wilkinson said: “We realised that one of the reasons why the results were unsatisfactory was because it is very difficult for disabled people to get jobs on national newspapers, so we thought we’d ask the nationals.”

Newspaper editors were sent a letter by DN last week asking them how many journalists they employed and how many were disabled.

They were asked if newsrooms were accessible for people with mobility problems or sensory impairments and whether they had made any changes to improve access.

The survey also asked whether editorial staff received training on the reporting of disability issues and whether editors used the Government’s “two ticks” Positive About Disabled People symbol when advertising jobs.

Finally, they were asked to sign a pledge – backed by the minister for disabled people, Maria Eagle – to work towards ensuring their employment policies better reflect the fact that 12.7 per cent of those working or available for work are disabled and to cover the reporting of disability issues in training courses.

Wilkinson told Press Gazette: “I hope we get a response. I’ll be watching the newspapers very closely to see which ones respond and which do not.

“It will be very bad if it looked as though they’d taken one look at this and thrown it in the bin.”

By Ruth Addicott

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