Innovation School MSc International Management & Design Innovation

Keara Mangan (she/her)

I love utilizing 3D, graphic, and media analytics to create impactful art and presentations. I hope to continue my career forward as a production manager and multimedia designer, utilizing my digital design and business expertise in a large-scale organization.

Portfolio Website
Improving workplace accessibility and inclusion for Deaf and hard of hearing individuals in media industries

Improving workplace accessibility and inclusion for Deaf and hard of hearing individuals in media industries

Project Overview

My project aims to examine how workplace inclusion and accessibility and can be improved for DHH (D/deaf and hard of hearing) artists in media industries. I believe that this topic is of particular importance, especially as Hollywood within the last decade has increased its interests in diverse storytelling and marketing. Although the topic of minority inclusion has become more positively spread in mainstream media, issues of performative activism within large corporations remains prevalent. Behind the screen within the workplace of media studios, Deaf artists continue to struggle to receive accessible resources that best fit their communication preferences and recruitment events continue to neglect interpretation and captioning needs for DHH talent. Without prioritizing accessibility needs, Deaf artists and designers will continue to remain discriminated in visual arts industries.

My research aims to identify and improve current policy by designing more inclusive practices for companies to follow to attract and retain disabled talent. There is a wide pool of Deaf artists and those wanting a career related to visual media, however many companies continue to have apprehensive attitudes and insufficient resources available for DHH talent to succeed. Employees within motion picture companies are additionally not provided adequate Deaf culture training to learn new communication strategies and courtesy to their DHH coworkers. My proposal can have a positive impact for both the Deaf and greater creative community by presenting clearer accessibility policies that can mutually benefit both non-hearing and hearing staff.

Approximately 90% of children with hearing conditions are born into families with no history of deafness. However only about 10% of parents will learn sign language. This counterbalance showcases how, from an early age, many deaf children struggle with communication and language access- even with immediate family members. These statistics remain prevalent throughout Western countries despite increased opportunities and access to learn sign language, such as in-person and digital learning programs.

Learning about the theory and construct of the Social Disability Model helped to express many of the frustrative feelings and accessibility problems identified by non-profit organizations, case study testimonials, and project interviewees. The Social Model of Disability is a theory established by disability rights advocates that believes that developed countries’ societies create exclusions that inhibit disability, rather than the individuals themselves. There are many technology tools and resources possible to be more widely inclusive for people with a wide range of physical abilities, however the culture within society chooses to not be accessible for all individuals. For example, it is often possible for ramps and elevators to be added to buildings or add closed captioning to videos, however society chooses to not prioritize these inclusive practices. I believe this theory is an excellent reference that reflects many of the current issues media industries. As many accessibility tools such as subtitles, notetaking, and sign language interpretation are resources companies could provided to deaf and hard-of-hearing employees, however there is often not a voluntary or moral obligation to be proactive with providing these tools. Instead, deaf people often have to fight to receive adequate services to perform their jobs successfully.

Final Results

For my final research findings, I centered my collected desk literature, stakeholder, and workshop research into 6 recommendations. These policies all have the potential to be beneficial outcomes for both hearing and non-hearing designers.

Workplace Training

One of the first suggestions shared by project participants was increased Deaf culture and inclusion training within their workplaces. Not only should these trainings be available, but companies should also establish a mandatory protocol for employees of all levels, from executive to contracted staff to attend Deaf awareness programs. These courses are not a widespread guarantee for eradicating disability discrimination in the workplace, however they will provide the chance for workers with no prior exposure to Deaf culture the chance to gain greater empathy for their DHH coworkers. Providing staff with intermittent sign language lessons and classes during work hours gives people the chance to gradually improve their skills overtime while remaining mindful of people’s personal schedules outside of work hours. Gaining these sign language skills additionally gives hearing staff valuable learning insight in increasing their visual perception and spatial awareness, skills that are greatly important in arts industries.

Executive Change

Without the support of management investing in financial and policy resources for greater accessibility, many diversity and recruitment efforts will not be able to sustain long-term success in large media corporations. Like any investment however, inclusion improvement within the workplace requires money initially expended in order to yield results in the future. Greater inclusion of the workplace not only improves internal structure but it also has the potential to tap into previously undiscovered consumer markets, leading to the potential of greater profit.

Hire More Deaf Talent

Rather than stating that ‘No deaf talent is applying’, it is important to reflect and examine potential reasons why few DHH artists and designers apply to positions. Media corporations need to form more collaborative partnerships with arts organizations that have a strong focus on vocational resources for Deaf and disabled talent in order to improve recruitment efforts. Many traditional events held by arts groups do not have accessible resources, making it difficult for Deaf artists to network. It is important for coordinators to be considerate of hiring interpretation support and captioning to help give prospective DHH talent equal chance to engage with recruiters. This additionally calls for more hiring of production accessibility coordinators (PACs) on set environments to help facilitate a comfortable and safe work setting for both staff and actors. The UHC arts advocacy group estimates an initial £5,000 budget estimate for hiring more PACs on high-end media productions.

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

Deaf and disabled individuals are often placed in an unfair position of acting as the primary initiator for requesting workplace accommodations to cover their accessibility needs. It is important for human resource departments to have proper training on current government guidelines and disability rights so that they can proactively work to ensure an artist’s access needs are readily available for them to utilize.


To create a more inclusive environment, it is essential that hearing artists take initiation to ensure that their DHH coworkers feel welcomed and acknowledged within their team. Each person has different communication desires, thus one deaf person may prefer to have sign language interpretation while another may be comfortable with speech-to-text captioning with team members. Discrimination may not be intentional, however someone’s ignorance may be causing harm. It is important to advise others of Deaf etiquette and best practices when someone notices inequity being placed upon someone, regardless of disability status.

Flexible Work Schedules

Although some companies allowed for remote work opportunities pre-pandemic, the evolution of modern work culture since 2020 has rapidly formed to become more receptive to remote and hybrid work environments. Remote work has been seen as a widely favored work schedule for many artists with disabilities. Flexible work options often allow those with medical appointments to have more personal adjustments to their schedule when needed. Artists additionally have more opportunities to apply to positions beyond their local area, thus giving them more chances to gain employment at studios they may not have been able to accept prior to remote work.

DHH Artists in Media Industries

My dissertation project focuses on improving workplace accessibility and inclusion for Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, specifically within media industries. Behind the screen within the workplace of media studios, Deaf artists continue to struggle to receive accessible resources that best fit their communication needs. This proposal aims to identify more succinct policy practices for companies to follow to attract and retain more Deaf and disabled talent. This project also have a positive impact for both the Deaf and greater creative community by presenting clearer accessibility goals that can mutually benefit both non-hearing and hearing staff.

Media Industries

Digital arts industries have a substantially higher percentage of contract and freelance workers compared to other industries, with approximately a third of all media workers employed as freelance worldwide (The UK Creative Industries, 2021). This differentiation often yields greater power and benefit to studios, due to this giving them less employment benefit requirements and legal obligations for artists. This lack of legal responsibility additionally ties directly to workers’ accessibility rights and what assistive resources companies must provide.

Project Ideation Stages

Due to my project focusing more on analytical policy change and criticism, I modified my initial design process mapping to reflect this redesign, specifically later in the develop and deliver stages. The first half of my project journey centered on ‘Discover’ and ‘Define’. Through these stages, I spent the majority of project efforts on desk article, academic journal, and stakeholder interview research. This information helped me to categorize and code themes as well as identify current problems within the industry.

ScreenSkills' Study

ScreenSkills’ study was very constructive with getting perspective on the topic of disability and inclusion from a wide pool of artists. The report held a reoccurring trend of discrepancy between results of its disabled and non-disabled individuals surveyed. These statistics showcase both a gap in attitudes towards the topic of disability between disabled and non-disabled artists as well as a belief that studios are not providing inclusivity training to make their workplaces more welcoming. The survey also found unanimous support for remote work as the top benefit that employers could offer their workforce to make their companies more inclusive to artists with disabilities.

Social Model of Disability

Social Model of Disability overview and examples.

Design Methods

While evaluating initial project steps and options, I charted potential questions I wanted answered through my project, such as “What policies can be improved?” and “Why does there continue to be a disconnect between media content diversity versus workplace demographics?” Framing these questions through this method of design thinking helped me to focus my search area of desk literature sources.

Stakeholder Mapping

I created a stakeholder map during the initial phase of my desk research to help define relationship patterns between contributors and their impact between DHH artists. This chart helped me identify which professionals I should reach out to for further research guidance and interview requests. I designed the mapping visual into three relationship sections: core, direct, and indirect.

PESTLE Analysis

Reflecting on my past design operations case studies at the Adam Smith Business School, I charted a PESTLE analysis map to identify key components of influence surrounding my project topic. This helped organize my thoughts and organize factors into different subjects. Political and legal topics were closely related for this project, due to the U.K. recently experiencing a new wave of BSL legislation directly affecting the legal rights of DHH British artists. As my research progressed, I added and revised more factors pertaining to socioeconomic barriers, such as the social disability model and corporate performative activism.

Problems within the Industry

To help organize my current desk research, analysis mapping, and interviewee results, I drafted current problems within the industry while listing possible reasons as to why these problems currently exist. This has helped to compile my current findings into organized sections to investigate and address further into my final design visualization results.

6 Policy Recommendations

Workplace Training and Executive Change

Hiring and Proactivity

Advocacy and Flexible Work Schedules