‘The Undateables’ tells the story of nine people looking for love on air who have a range of condions, from Autism and Down’s syndrome to learning disabilities or physical impairments.
Last week a colleague asked me my professional opinion as a learning disability student nurse. Did I see it as voyeurism?
I immediately started to rant about the show, mainly its negative portrayal of vulnerable people opening them up to ridicule and possible abuse. I also had major issues with the title of the programme and feel it is a classic example of negative labelling. I hadn’t realised that I felt so strongly about the programme until this discussion which prompted me to find out the opinions of other learning disability professionals.
Many people felt that the show has the potential to show people with disabilities in an incredibly positive light
The response from so many of my peers in favour of the show initially really shocked me as I was expecting much more negative feedback.
Many people felt that the show has the potential to show people with disabilities in an incredibly positive light; by allowing members of society who have no experience of people with learning disabilities to see that in fact they can live meaningful lives with meaningful relationships. Other positive comments were that the show gives an explanation of conditions and how they affect a person; which in turn has the potential to educate society, enabling a better understanding and acceptance of people with learning disabilities.
These comments really helped me to revaluate the positive effect the show could have for people who live every day with extra challenges. How often do we see people with learning disabilities or other challenges to everyday life in a positive light within the media?
One of my peers directed me to an article that one of the young people who stars in the show, Kate Brackeley, had written about her experience of being in the programme; she said she really enjoyed it and had been given amazing support at all times.
I realised that I needed to revisit the show as I had only watched one episode of the previous series; this had clouded my judgement and stopped me from really engaging with it from the participant’s point of view.
Watching the shows again, my opinion has shifted slightly. I still find the title offensive but have come to realise that it may be deliberately controversial to instigate debate, “Undateable” is the public perception which the programme seeks to challenge. The show itself is sensitively made and shows the strength and courage of people who although may have difficulties still want the same things in life as everybody does which includes love and companionship.
Since watching the show and listening to more experienced colleagues I have come to believe that the show is a positive move to raise awareness of learning disabilities and the people involved.
Michelle Parker is the student nurse editor for learning disabilities nursing. , I disagree with it giving the people involved a negative label.