A rider is a document that touring musicians and other performers use. Whether that's lighting, the right brand of beer, or a total ban on brown M&Ms, it's the rider which makes sure that everyone has what they need to be at their best. The thing is, it's not just Van Halen who have specific requirements in order to perform. Everyone does.
When you're neurodivergent - and/or disabled in any other way - asking for your needs to be met is fraught with difficulty. There's the fear of being seen awkward, or of having support needs misunderstood. Then there's the drain of explaining the same thing to a different person for the twenty-third time. It's easy to feel like you want to give up and not ask for help at all.
That's where the Access Rider comes in. It details what you need to perform, in whatever context you do that. It's a living document which will eventually cover all of scenarios you work with, whether you are appearing on stage or working at a desk. And it's not a boring list of reasonable adjustments (useful though those may be), it's an expression of your exceptional talent as well as your needs.
That said, it is absolutely legitimate to ask for your needs to be met at work. In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal for organisations to treat a disabled person unfavourably as a result of their disability. It's also worth remembering that we're usually not asking for any more than anyone else is getting, it's just that we have a different set of requirements to some others. All we're doing is identifying the barriers that we face and asking for them to be removed, so that we're free to do our thing just like anybody else.
So, what should you put in the thing? Consider including:
- How you like to be addressed (Name, pronouns, etc...)
- Your preferred modes of communication (speech, text, etc...) and how you like people to contact you
- Documentary and bureaucratic needs (reading information, filling in forms, etc...)
- Your travel, accommodation and catering needs
- What tools support you in doing your job
- The times of day and durations you can comfortably work, along with breaks (mental and/or physical)
- Any sensory sensitivities (bright lights, strong smells, etc...)
- Any costs associated with meeting your access needs
- How people can ask questions and find out more
Tips for putting together a rider:
- Don't share anything that feels uncomfortable or private. Your need is valid without extra justification.
- Include links that help explain anything that might be unfamiliar to colleagues.
- Ask for what you need to feel safe and comfortable in your work.
- If you work in different ways consider putting together a specific section for each one (e.g. presentations, meetings, writing work, interviews)