Trailblazer Kimberley Randle writes on the power of integrating disability into mainstream dating shows.
People want the same thing. They want a relationship and the want to be loved”
As a single wheelchair user, have you ever considered going on a dating show? Undateables? First dates? Take me out?
I can honestly say I have considered this, but then fear of people’s reactions put me off so I never apply.
When the Undateables started 3 years ago it was a revelation to me to see a disabled person find their sole mate! However, as the series progressed it became apparent that only certain types of impairments were being shown. It was not an equal representation of the disabled community.
“Undateables” is not a term I like. In my opinion, the term has not helped the show or anyone with a disability. When I hear this word I believe it puts a perception to other people as being a “freak”, and as we know this is not the case! Everyone is different, my difference is that I use a wheelchair!
Then we have mainstream dating shows such as First Dates and Take Me Out.
For as long as these shows have been going I have not seen a single disabled person on there! Many may have applied but we, as viewers, wouldn’t know that. I wonder how a wheelchair user would cope with the highly inaccessible ‘Take Me Out’ set. I know the stairs are impossible for the women and for me, there’s a step out of the lift. Would a wheelchair user just magically appear behind a podium? Clearly, access was not high on the priority list for the producers or designers. Are they still under the impression we don’t date?!
Then we have First Dates, I love this show! It’s for anybody who wants to have a blind date in a nice restaurant and get to know a complete stranger. Until this season, I had only seen one disabled person on the show. But the opening episode of the current season saw Arumina, who just happens to use a wheelchair. Her date was Simon. It was great to see how open she was about her condition and how it affects what she can and can’t do! It was also nice to see that he was talking to her and not seeing the wheelchair/disability but was interested in her as a person. It ended with them having a race outside the restaurant.
With moves towards integration, should they take the Undateables off the air and have disabled people on mainstream dating shows?
Absolutely; society has changed since the Undateables started. Why should we have a separate show about anyone with a disability trying to find love. When it comes to dating, we all want the same thing.
Disability needs to be mainstreamed to make it the norm. The only way people’s perceptions are going to change is through education.
There is nothing wrong with me or you, it’s everyone else who doesn’t see it!
Written by Kimberley Randle