When I was in film school, nobody would work with me. That is, unless they were forced to work with me. One of the women in my class once told me that no one would work with me because the other students did not think I was capable of helping them out on their own film shoots, in return. It should be noted that not once did this person ever invite me to help on her film sets, herself. There is a perception that disabled people are incapable of doing crew work.
When I was shooting a web series, around the time of my first year in film school, often short on crew, my then, teenage son, who would come along to set with us, was thrilled to learn about how to help out with sound, lighting, and various other aspects of film crewing. As he got older, he would offer to hold the boom pole, a skill he was quite good at due to his very long arms. My son is autistic.
One of his amazing talents is intense focus on something he’s interested in, and this made him an amazing asset to my independent and school project film sets. It also taught him a skill he has, a practical skill he would not get anywhere else, that he can use to get a job. He struggles with traditional forms of employment, and having these skills is invaluable, but studios do not want to give people like him, or me, a person with a physical disability, as well as mental and chronic health disabilities, a shot.
There is no other magical reason for why disabled folks are not included in the film industry. There, however, is a reason those who are invisibly disabled or whose disabilities are labeled “quirky,” weird/odd/strange, or mad refuse to disclose. Those who can hide do so, often at great detriment to their own well-being, to ensure they keep getting hired.
The reason we are not included in the film industry is disability prejudice…ableism…whatever you want to call it (most Brits call it disablism). The only way to eradicate that is to genuinely consider disabled folks for film crews. We are out there and we are capable!
If the students in my classes had bothered to give me a chance, they would know that I would have found a way to be useful to their film sets. I make a damn good AD! I can help out as a great script supervisor. I always figure out how to handle sound, and when I can’t, my girlfriend is always with me on film sets, and she is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met. She works as my hands and legs for me on all my own sets. We would have gotten things done!
The exclusion of us, in many cases IS intentional. Out of sight, out of mind is a major reason why disabled people are excluded from many occupations, job opportunities, educational opportunities, internships, and more. The film industry is a reflection of our society on a smaller level. People don’t want to see us. People don’t want to be us. People don’t want to include us. If they don’t include us, they don’t have to be reminded of our existence. That is at the heart of our exclusion, and things need to change!