Disability in the media

Clapper boardFor me, the media plays a big part in our lives nowadays. You cannot get away from it should it be radio, TV, newspaper, magazine or on the internet. There are many opportunities to raise the profile for disability issues here in Scotland. It is good to see people with a disability in front of the camera presenting. In Summer 2012, Channel 4 was the home of the Paralympic coverage and they did a good job, filming more than 500 hours of 24 hours-a-day coverage. Broadcasts ran during the twelve days of the games every night, also at this time Channel 4 had a show called The Last Leg, known during the first series as The Last Leg with Adam Hills featuring a mix of comedy, guests and Paralympics highlights. The show received strong reviews and regularly pulled in more than a million viewers. The host, Adam Hills, is a stand-up comedian from Sydney, who was born without a right foot and wears a prosthesis, which has become a frequent source of comedy in his act.  Adam’s co-host Alex Brooker was born with hand and arm deformities, his twisted right leg had to be amputated when he was a baby. Final member of the presenting trio is Josh Widdicombe, a stand-up comedian and a radio host, who has no disability. The same year Channel 4 created a pilot reality documentary called The Undateables. I wasn’t a fan of the title of the show; however the concept is following people with a disability, and those with a variety of conditions, through the highs and lows of finding love. The series was nominated for a BAFTA TV award in 2014 and the viewing figures were so good the show is still on. It was quickly followed by BBC2’s Extreme Love, an exploration of parents’ relationship with their autistic children. In 1992 disability campaigners protested en masse outside London Weekend Television, when a 28 hour ITV Telethon was held, protesting that the pitiful stereotype in their charity’s appeal films did not help achieve disability equality. When we talk about disability magazines I wonder why they are not in general circulation in stores. Two such Scottish-based publications are Able Magazine and Posability Magazine. I wrote a column for the latter for about a year. I also do a bi-monthly column for a UK based magazine Learning Disability Today. I believe that by putting these, and similar publications, into general circulation it would help to raise more awareness. I present a show once a week live from Scotland for Able Radio, which is an online station based in Wales, the first of its kind in the UK. We have presenters with a disability from up and down the UK. Programmes are broadcast 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The station was created to give a voice to people with a disability. This national station has since moved into media training, forming Able Academy, by using the media environment to develop skills that change lives. They also provide a video production service – Able Media, which puts clients in the driving seat, not just commissioning a production but also taking an active role in every stage. Guided by industry professionals, each service has a separate remit but they also feed into, and support, the other Able Radio commitment – to tackling disability issues.