The first time I watched The Undateables I was disappointed. The title alone made my eyes roll. I thought come on media, let's not portray people with a learning disability in a negative way again...
I thought the Undateables was just going to be another show making people with a disability look silly. I was wrong. There are 1.4million people with a learning disability in the UK but you would never know that from watching TV. When people with a learning disability are portrayed on TV it is usually in a way that I feel is not realistic or positive. However, you know what, I changed my mind as soon as I watched the Undateables because of the positive way people's stories are told.
I think the new series is the best yet, but I still don't like the name of the programme. It's designed to shock and doesn't suit the programme, which I think is a great representation of disability, that everybody can relate to. Channel 4 have listened to what their audience wants and shown people with a disability in a genuine way. This is so important because not enough people understand what a learning disability is, and 62% of disabled people say they are treated differently because they are disabled.
With the right support, many people are capable of finding love, whether or not they have a disability. People with a learning disability should have the opportunity to be in a loving relationship if they want to be.
However, this is far from reality for many people with a learning disability. I married my first love Mark in 2013, but not everybody gets the same opportunity to meet new people that I had. Getting married was really important to me as when I was diagnosed with my learning disability I felt all I ever heard was 'you will never', 'you can't', 'you won't'. All negative attitudes, that really upset me. Back then, it was hard for me to imagine then that I would ever fall in love. However, just because you have a learning disability doesn't mean you are any different from anyone else. The Undateables shows this; people looking for love and it doesn't matter that they have a disability or not.
I watched the reaction on Twitter when the first episode of the new series was aired. There were only a handful of negative comments, which is a big change to some of the hurtful things people said when the programme was launched in 2012. It shows the positive effect the media can have on public opinions. It's become a very well-known programme and has encouraged lots more people to speak openly about disability, which is a great thing.
It was risky for a mainstream channel like Channel 4 to make a programme like The Undateables, but I think it's a risk which has paid off. However, it is not enough. We need more channels to make television shows that go beyond the label of someone's disability and celebrate the people instead.