Andrew Miller | Northampton, UK
For 30 years I've been challenging perceptions of disability and championing inclusion in broadcasting and the arts.
I am passionate about democratising our national culture, ensuring disabled people can fully participate as artists, employees and audiences. This means having our voices heard throughout the UK's world leading creative industries.
Despite using a wheelchair from a very young age, I never saw myself as different, anymore than being gay, blue eyed or Scottish. In my youth I recognised no barriers.They came later.
In 1989, I began my career as one of the first disabled television presenters at Channel 4 on childrens magazine programme Boom! Created by Teletubbies producer Anne Wood, the programme achieved a first through integrating disabled children with their non-disabled peers in a format designed to emphasise ability.
The series was highly popular, achieving audiences in excess of 2.5million, ran for two years and launched me as a role-model tv presenter. I went on to present series for the BBC & ITV throughout the 1990s including BBC1's flagship citizen rights strand Advice Shop and was frequently to be seen by millions of viewers pushing my own abilities to the limit parascending, water-skiing and hot air ballooning!
Later focusing on production, I then became one of the only disabled producers of mainstream arts & music documentaries, directing films on artists I admired including Derek Jarman, Antony Gormley, Bill Viola, Billy Mackenzie and Gerry Rafferty.
Moving into the arts fulltime, I occupied senior roles at Arts Council England, Royal & Derngate Theatres and the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama. At RWCMD, I created a new arts centre in Cardiff, a highly accessible space programming high quality music and drama, including a nationwide arts festival marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution.
Despite these successes, I've also experienced career-limiting discrimination as a result of my disability - like many others across society. I've been vocal in calling this out, writing extensively in the arts press and speaking at industry conferences.
My agency is now focused on creating meaningful change in the arts for disabled audiences, employees and artists by undertaking a number of influential voluntary roles.
Uniquely, I sit on the National Councils of both Arts Council England and The Arts Council of Wales - the only person ever to do so - influencing the development of policy at board level of these important state funding bodies. I am also a non-executive director of Welsh National Opera and the UK digital arts agency, The Space.
In 2018, I was appointed as the UK Government's first Disability Champion for Arts & Culture - a role covering the arts, museum and film sectors. I've shaped the role as a powerful strategic platform to champion inclusivity and have set out three areas of priority:
• to improve access to specialist arts training and apprenticeships for disabled people
• to address the shockingly low levels of employment of disabled people in the sector
• and to encourage equality of experience for disabled audiences
I've spent the last year catalysing government, national funders, sector leading bodies, higher education institutions and disabled creatives to get behind these changes.
My call to action has already led to The Art Council of Wales pledging to double the number of disabled employees in the Welsh arts workforce and triple board membership within 4 years. Arts Council Northern Ireland have pledged to roll out an access audit of its entire funded portfolio of arts organisations.
For audiences, I have called for the creation of a National Disability Arts Access Card, designed to create a consistent offer of discounts and customer service for disabled people across the funded UK network of arts venues and museums.
There are currently hundreds of individual arts access schemes operating with differing terms & conditions. I want to streamline that to just one and whether you live in Antrim, Aberdeen, Aberdare or Aylesbury, you can expect consistency from our funded arts venues. Arts Council England has commissioned a feasibility study to explore options on how to deliver this initiative.
Looking forward, I'll be asking how National Lottery funds can be better used to adapt arts premises for disabled employees and explore the potential of a Disability Cultural Charter. Such a document would outline the expectations of arts organisations in return for public subsidy and enshrine the rights of disabled audiences.
I want to challenge the cultural sector to lead beyond the legal requirements of The Equality Act, to go beyond reasonable adjustment. To demonstrate that our national culture can truly embrace and value disabled people as artists, as employees, as audiences. As equals.
Further information and supporting documentation can be found at: