There are pros and cons to shows like The Undateables, but at least we're engaging with disability issues

To really educate society on the difficulties of being disabled I'm not convinced 'love' is the best topic

Martyn Sibley
Thursday 09 January 2014 17:31

Today sees the return of Channel 4's disability dating show 'The Undateables'. With the launch of series three, the programme follows a group of disabled people during their quest to find love.

The past two series caused much controversy, but viewers seem excited to welcome back the show to their screens. Whether the show has provided any positive impact for disabled people, however, is more difficult to know.

To really educate society on the difficulties of being disabled I'm not convinced 'love' is the best topic. Many disabled people are struggling to access basic social care, transport and equipment right now. I fear viewers enjoy the sensationalism, and enhance their negative feelings of sympathy that is so often seen towards disabled people.

Conversely, everyday people don't engage in these abstract disability issues, and factual programming isn't sexy or attention grabbing. With so much choice on television, something has to lure people in for them to watch it. You could say that anything that engages, normalises and improves disability awareness can only be a good thing (as long as it doesn't cause irreparable damage). Maybe from love, commonality and empathy everyone will act more to make our world accessible for all.

It is also possible that by seeing disabled people on TV, also seeking love, that the confidence of someone with a disability is boosted as a consequence. I've often wondered how many of the viewers are disabled themselves, and considered what other disabled people thought about the programme.

On a personal level, with dating, relationships, and being in a wheelchair; I had the school playground flirting, a first love at university, a bachelor lifestyle in London, I broke some hearts and others broke mine too. On New Years Eve I got engaged to the woman of my dreams. You see, it has never been without worries, pain or problems; but it is all part of living.

If you do like a bit of trash TV, (and who doesn't sometimes?) then give The Undateables a go. However let's try and move things to a place where disabled people star in a dating show alongside non-disabled people, who are all looking for love.

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