Letter: Attitudes to the disabled

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From Mr Ian Macrae

Sir: In his TV review of 6 July, it was perverse of Tom Sutcliffe to lump two very different programmes together - The Invisible Wall and Wednesday's edition of Over The Edge - and then criticise them partly on the basis of their difference. The Disability Programmes Unit's output presents and represents a community that is as diverse as the society of which it is part.

The person who complained about inaccurate information on the London Underground in The Invisible Wall was not deaf, he had impaired sight. Mr Sutcliffe's contention that he too has been misinformed goes only partly into the problem. If you have been wrongly directed, it is much more difficult to find your way to where you actually want to be if the maps, signs, and destination boards are inaccessible and if you are unable to locate or identify a member of staff.

In the series as a whole, the central point is that disabled people are powerless to complain under current law about such discrimination. Four men were refused admittance to a nightclub and were blatantly lied to. The owner later admitted that this was because they were deaf British Sign Language users. Would he have been, or have been able, to be so frank if his motives had been racist?

The argument that some things just aren't "mendable" doesn't stand up either. A "difficult curbstone" can be made less difficult with a shovel, some concrete and a little time and application. An insurmountable flight of steps can be by-passed in a lift. As someone who (in Mr Sutcliffe's terms) "Can't use their eyes", I have access to books, and indeed to the Independent, through a variety of alternative formats including Braille, tape, low vision aids, text-to-speech scanners and a range of other computer technology. In many instances, money is required, but what is also needed is some thought and changes in attitude about the needs and the rights of a group that constitutes one tenth of this country's population.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Macrae


Disability Programmes Unit

BBC Television

London, W12

7 July