TELEVISION / Access to all areas

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FROM The Edge (BBC 2), a 'news and current affairs series with a disability perspective', is a programme bedevilled by a combination of anger and timidity - the former generated by indignation at the generally pitying treatment of disablement on television, the latter by the strong feeling that no one wants to risk a politically incorrect statement. As a result, the prevailing tone is of a grievance looking for an object, an indiscriminate resentment that sometimes spills out in the oddest directions.

The section on Expo '92, for example, which was partly a report on visiting the site, partly a desultory lament at the banality of the exhibits, took a brief excursion into the hills of Andalusia to show that the locals were running out of water. One could only guess that the point being made was that disabled people are interested in other issues besides wheel-chair access, but this element was so opaquely connected to what had gone before (it wasn't even clear whether Expo's fountains had caused the shortage) that you were just left with the sense of a generalised indignation finding another outlet.

Later, in a good video-cam report on Euro Disney (a method which gave you a wheel-chair user's point of view far more efficiently than the ridiculous youth- programme funny angles used elsewhere), one reporter complained that 'there were times when I was thrown up in the air and banged back down again'. As she was describing a thrill-ride, the note of querulous reservation seemed slightly misplaced.

Things weren't much more logical in the sections which attacked last week's ITV Telethon. Some of the points were well made - charity, someone pointed out, has 'nothing to do with dressing up as a kangaroo and hopping around a car park'. And, indeed, there is an important distinction between demanding rights and accepting charity (even if those doing the giving and receiving are identical in both cases). But the reporters here seemed unable to move beyond their 'anger' - an emotion piously overvalued by political radicals, who tend to forget that few people can lose their temper and find a solution at the same time. David Hevey counselled us to 'Listen generously and give cautiously', a call to inaction which sat uneasily alongside the report demanding that a local council cough up for assistance to a family facing repossession.

The same muddled thinking has adopted the rhetoric of pride from other minority struggles (Black Pride and Gay Pride) without pausing to acknowledge that disabled people do have problems above and beyond social attitudes. A singer, composed from equal parts of Billy Idol and Gary Numan, sang a fearsome rock number with the refrain 'I'm proud' in one musical interlude. But you wonder how 'pride' in disability works - does the 'pride' grow greater with the degree of disability? Should a profoundly deaf person be 'prouder' than someone with residual hearing? From The Edge opened with a denunciation of television's lies about disabled people's lives but seems set on replacing them with its own ideological half-truths.

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