Toby Mildon

Representing disability throughout the BBC

The BBC is inviting disabled people with digital skills to a ‘Get In’ Day to hear about career opportunities. The event is at New Broadcasting House on Thursday 28 August 2014.

Ahead of the day Toby Mildon, from BBC Future Media – the team responsible for designing, developing and running digital services like iPlayer, websites and Red Button – talks about life at the BBC. He’s also a TV Disability Activator, working to make sure disability is represented within the business and on TV.

What do you do for the BBC?

I manage ‘user experience’ and design projects for news, the website or apps, and help commission digital agencies to do work for us. I also look after our Diversity Action Plan, which is an initiative to encourage more disabled people to join the BBC in both technological areas, and across the business. I advise our Director of TV on how disability is portrayed on our screens.

Every day is different – I might be brainstorming a project plan, writing a report for our leadership team detailing how a project is going, facilitating a creative workshop, drafting a contract, arranging pitches or meeting a head of commissioning to discuss disability stories and presenters; the list goes on.

What is the secret of your success?

I think it’s important to have three things in life: a back bone (and mine is reinforced from a spinal fusion!), a wish bone and a funny bone. If you have determination, dreams and a sense of humour, you’ll go far. I’ve managed to ‘tune into’ and be passionate about jobs that inspire me, which in turn motivates me. I believe in the BBC’s mission to inform, educate and entertain the world, and as long as I’m making a difference, I’ll enjoy my work. I’ve had several mentors and coaches to help me accelerate my career, including one through a Creative Diversity Network mentoring scheme.

What do you like about the BBC and working for it?

I believe in our mission, and I am proud of the high quality and world-class services and content that we produce. I work with really talented people who continue to inspire me. I’m also autonomous in my work – my line manager doesn’t micro-manage me, and I relish this freedom. For example, I’m able to write this article on the train so I can leave the office early, which helps with my life/work balance, and therefore my health.

I like that there’s quite a few disabled people in the office, so I’m not the ‘odd one out’. I have 24/7 care and my PA accompanies me to work to help with everything from feeding and going to the toilet, to moving around the office and scanning documents. The staff working at the Access Unit met me on my first day to assess me for what reasonable adjustments I needed, and later when my arms weakened, they made further adjustments, such as putting Dragon Dictate on my laptop.

What do you think are the main false perceptions around disability and employment?

I believe there are three top false perceptions about disabled people: That they are too costly to hire i.e. adjustments needed and sick leave etc; They don’t have the same stamina as non-disabled folk; They are somehow less intelligent.

All three are complete rubbish, and have been disproven by academics and government research time and time again! Disabled people need the confidence to see themselves as resilient and resourceful individuals, which is crucial for work. It’ll be a slow change because it’s about altering staunch attitudes. We need a combination of direct action, policy lobbying and disabled role models spreading positive vibes to make a difference.

Finally, what advice would you give to individuals with disabilities wishing to work at the BBC or in media?

If you’re the kind of person who is happy to take a leap of faith, just apply now through BBC Careers. If you’re fresh out of university, or have little work experience, check out our twice yearly extend internships for disabled people. If you need more input then seek careers help from a professional coach or mentor. A lot of it is about making connections and networking, so start talking to people and getting yourself known, online or in person. It’s so easy today to make connections through websites such as Meetup, LinkedIn or Twitter – you could even put a tweet out to try and organise work shadowing or work experience.

If you would like to attend, please RSVP to toby.mildon@bbc.co.uk by attaching a copy of your CV. Spaces are very limited and by invitation only. The BBC will provide Reasonable Adjustments for anyone selected to attend.

A version of this blog first appeared on Disability Horizons.