Comedian Lee Ridley has slammed Channel 4's latest controversial documentary The Undateables, which follows a group of people with different disabilities as they use dating agencies to try to find love.
In his blog on The Huffington Post UK, Ridley - who has cerebral palsy and has to use a communication aid to speak - renames the show: "Would You Shag A Crip?" And exclaims: "There’s nothing like a good freak show to improve the ratings."
Ridley does not believe the programme has been advertised correctly. He says: "Channel 4 would undoubtedly say that this was to help encourage debate and things but I doubt a teenage disabled person would cope very well with being told they were undateable. How do you even start to respond to the inevitable question - Does that mean I'm undateable, Mummy?"
Reacting to Ridley's criticism, Channel 4 tells us: "The programme title is intended to challenge preconceptions about disability and we hope that the attention around the series will help stimulate debate around some of the important issues the programme touches on."
The show features nine people, including Carolyne, a striking 29-year-old from Greater Manchester, who is sick of kissing frogs and happens to be in a wheelchair, and Justin, 39, from the Midlands who has neurofibromatosis type 1 - a rare condition which means tumours grow on nerve tissue on his body - and in Justin's case, on his face.
In the official blurb from Channel 4, the show is described thus:
"An uplifting three-part series follows the journeys of several extraordinary singletons as they enter the dating circuit in pursuit of love. From a stand-up comedian with Tourettes and a trapeze artist with brittle bones, to a media student with Down's Syndrome, an amateur poet with a learning disability, and a skateboarder with a facial disfigurement, we follow them as they enter the world of blind dates, matchmakers and speed dating. Their quest to find love and companionship will take them on a journey of highs and lows, but all are open to finding "The One."
Ridley believes the show's name "suggests that disabled people are still a fair target to be stared and laughed at".
The comedian is making his name on the North East circuit despite being unable to speak and has secured a support slot for ITV's Show Me The Funny winner, Patrick Monahan, in Hartlepool in April. But he thinks the programme could have been handled much better.
He writes: "Of course, more people will see the billboards than watch the programme. So, even if the programme does display us disableds in a good light (which I doubt it will, it's better TV to show the bad side), the only thing most people will remember is the offensive advertising. And, if it's okay to be offensive to disabled people on billboards, then it's okay in the playground or in the pub too, right?"
However, Channel 4 has responded by saying: "“This affectionate and thought-provoking series follows a group of people who say their ability to form relationships is affected by an impairment of challenging condition, and charts their quest to find love...
"Everyone featured in the series has seen the programme and is happy with it, and programme makers have worked closely with a wide range of experts and charities to ensure all aspects are handled in an insightful and sensitive manner.”
Let us know your thoughts on the programme below. The Undateables begins Tuesday, 3 April, 9pm on Channel 4.