Many disabled music professionals feel unable to reveal their condition, study says


Many artists and other music industry professionals with disabilities fear that they will appear less competent or face discrimination if they mention their health condition in the workplace. Photo: AFP

Disability remains a taboo subject in the music industry. This is the unfortunate finding of a new British consultation funded by the Arts Council England.

The phenomenon is such that some professionals in the sector refuse to talk about their health condition or impairment for fear of reprisals.

The study is based on the testimonies of several hundred artists and other professionals in the music industry. More than 70% of them identified as suffering from a disability (motor, neurological, sensory or cognitive) or a long-term health condition that is non-visible.

Although this term covers a wide range of realities, most of the people concerned "sometimes" or "never" disclose their health condition to their colleagues.

While two-thirds of the survey respondents believe that this information is not relevant in a professional context, many are worried about appearing less competent or facing discrimination.

What's even more concerning is that one in four respondents worry about missing out on job opportunities because of their disability.

"Some employers tried to make the accommodations I needed. One employer told me it was not their job. Another told me that I was lying and wanted to get disability (benefits)," explains one respondent.

Feeling like a burden

The study also found that professionals with invisible disabilities put their health at risk by choosing not to disclose their health concerns in the workplace. Three-quarters of those surveyed reported this unfortunate experience.

"I am getting better at asking for my needs, but in the past I often did not want to ask for too much and feel like a burden. As years have gone by and I have gotten more comfortable, this pattern has decreased," said one respondent.

The vast majority of respondents, however, agreed on the need to give more prominence to people with disabilities in music.

A previous report from the Arts Council England, dating from 2018, had already warned about their under-representation in all areas of the industry. At the time, the organisation found that only 1.8% of professionals in the sector had a disability.

Ben Price, founder of Harbourside Artist Management, is one such professional. He himself has an invisible health condition, which helped motivate him to oversee this industry consultation.

"With my own lived experiences, I was keen to embark on this research. I myself have a disability that I didn't feel able to disclose, and I wanted to explore the perspectives of others in a similar position, as well as solutions of what can be done to improve disabled representation in the music industry.

"This aim is not necessarily to ask more people to disclose their disabilities, but to encourage an environment where those conversations are normalised and more people with a disability or long-term health condition can be welcomed into the industry – at all levels – without barriers." – AFP Relaxnews

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