I heard the British Medical Association (BMA) criticising Channel 4's The Undateables and suggesting it represents 'disabled people as a source of comedy'. As someone with a learning disability, I disagree.
I, like the BMA, had concerns when I first heard the name "The Undateables". I was worried that it would be similar to other shows that are on TV and make fun of people with a disability, as often people with a learning disability are shown in a negative way. But having watched the show I feel it is important, because it shows in a positive way people with a disability in their hunt to find love and relationships. Which is something that a lot of people want to do in life, regardless of whether they have a disability or not.
Having real people with disabilities dealing with real life issues proves those stereotypes are just wrong. Having looked at the positive tweets about the show, including by celebrities, it is clear to see that this is what it has done. This is important because it helps people to talk about learning disability, and see the people, not the disability, which is really what is important in changing perceptions of disability. As hate crime and bullying are sadly still a daily reality for many disabled people.
The people on the programme were fantastic and have proved that they are not different from anyone else. They have shown empathy and that everybody has a right to love. The episode I most enjoyed was the episode where a girl called Kate, who has Down's syndrome, talked about finding her dream man. I liked the poems that she wrote. They were about how she wanted to fall in love and get married. You can read my interview with Kate here.
I could understand how she felt, because when I was growing up I wanted to have the same things as her. I always dreamed about my own wedding day. However, I was diagnosed with a learning disability when I was ten and since then I've been told: 'you will never', 'you can't', 'you won't'. All negative attitudes. It was hard for me to imagine then that I would ever get married. That is why getting married on 4 May, 2013, was a really big thing for me because it proved to a lot of people that it was something I wanted. I therefore really like the way that each person who has been featured in the programme talks about their dream to meet someone and be in a good relationship. I also like the way that the people from the dating agencies support the people on the show to be positive about going on dates.
There have been negative comments about the people on the show. I have seen some of them on Twitter - it is horrible and is bullying. These kinds of attitudes prove that some people still don't understand disability, and makes these TV shows even more important in that they portray people with a disability in a positive way.
Channel 4 is a mainstream TV channel and I think overall it is good that they have a series that has helped to show positive stories of people with a disability. It is a shame if the BMA can not see this. However, it should not just be on dating shows, what we really need is to have more people with a learning disability in all types of shows.