13 Oct 2021

Access Riders – some tips from our Digital Producer

A caucasian person in their twenties with brown hair, a beard and glasses, smiling whilst stood against a brick wall

Image: DaDa's Digital Producer, Joe Strickland

As a disabled-led organisation, maximising accessibility has always been one of our core values. Initiatives we use at DaDa include Access Riders, which you can find out more about in this handy blog from one of our team-members.

Hi all, I’m Joe, the Digital Producer for DaDa. I’m also a disabled theatre maker and creative technologist and my disability expresses itself in a bunch of different ways, some counter intuitive, some atypically. That’s why I’ve found developing and using an access rider with DaDa so useful and I encourage anyone to create an access rider for yourself to share with your employer or future collaborators.

An access rider is a document that outlines what you need the people you work with to consider in order for you to work for them. The Social Model of Disability dictates that people aren’t inherently disabled, but it is society that puts barriers in their way, disabling them in the process. Therefore, your work environment might be disabling you and making your life at work more difficult. An access rider is a step towards trying to alleviate this issue.

An access rider can mention any of the following things about yourself (this list is non-exhaustive):

  • Your name
  • Your job title or roles within a company
  • Other elements of your identity
  • Any diagnoses or conditions that you want to highlight as part of the rider
  • The types of situations that exacerbate your impairment
  • The parts of your job that exacerbate your impairment
  • Whether your impairment is invisible or not
  • Your access requirements - these can be anything that might make you able to work better for an employer (preferred communication methods, lengths of meetings, lengths of breaks, situations when your condition is more or less present) This can also include if your impairment doesn’t follow a distinct set of rules you’re aware of and that it can affect you randomly
  • In what situations you might require help
  • How people should act to help you
  • What people should avoid doing to help you
  • Any emergency information or contacts
  • Any supporting information from charities or rights groups

I also include this article on Spoon Theory: https://butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/

And this description of the Social Model from our friends, Unlimited, for reference purposes: https://weareunlimited.org.uk/the-social-model-of-disability/

As an example my access rider, based on the access template from Unlimited (linked to below), references two impairments and is laid out as follows:

  • Intro (who I am, the work I do, the impairments or medical conditions I want my employer to be aware of)
  • A statement that I’m happy to talk to anyone about my access requirements or clarify anything in the document.
  • A statement that my impairments are invisible.

I then write a section for each of my impairments or medical conditions that follows this structure:

  • What I require to work effectively
  • How my impairments or medical conditions usually impact me
  • Situations they are better or worse in
  • How to help me: Dos and Don’ts

Then I clarify I don’t require any sort of emergency response and I finish by offering supporting info for each impairment, followed by the Spoon Theory and Social Model links above.

I’ve essentially written the document as a series of bullet pointed lists, so it’s easy to read, understand, and refer to if need be for any colleague or collaborator.

Don’t be afraid to ask for anything that you need in order to do your best work. If your employer wants you to work, and you need something in order to do that work, then your employer should supply that for you. If you need something considered or kept in mind, then they should do that for you. If they are doing something that hinders your ability to work, that’s not in their best interest and an access rider can be a step towards everyone being able to help each other.

Also, feel free to have multiple access riders if you want to. I have two; one for job applications that gives an overview of things for the company to consider about me for the job application process (interviews, email preferences, group discussions, etc) and a second for when I’m working for a company that goes into more detail. This second rider also contains more sensitive information that doesn’t need to be known as part of the job application process.

DaDa has been a phenomenal company to work for when it comes to employee access. I work remotely, flexibly, and in the way that allows me to be the most productive. My line managers check in with me as frequently as I like and the whole workforce is kind and thoughtful when it comes to working with and supporting each other. Decisions aren’t made about me and my workload without my direct input and communication channels are open so that I feel like I can talk to the leadership about anything that might be affecting me.

My final point is that access isn’t just about impairment. Everyone has times they don’t want to receive emails, preferred methods of communication, preferred software or websites for work, and preferred lengths of notice for preparing for meetings or presentations. You can have an access rider even if you don’t identify as disabled because you will still have access needs, and your employer should work with you to meet those needs just as they should for everyone else.

Further resources
Access Rider help from Unlimited: https://weareunlimited.org.uk/creating-your-own-access-rider/

Guidance and template from artist, Alexandrina Hemsley: https://disabilityarts.online/magazine/opinion/access-rider-open-template/

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