Should disabled people really be classed as “undateable”?

This week saw the 3-part Channel 4 documentary called “The Undateables” come to a close. It followed the lives of 9 people with varying disabilities as they try and find love. Surely the way to show that disabled people are just part of society is to show them doing everyday things and just being normal instead of just highlighting them and highlighting the differences between disabled people and non-disabled people. Seems like Channel 4 hasn’t really helped with the publicity of this show as the original blurb said: “a range of people whose ability to form relationships is affected by an impairment or challenging condition – such as being deaf, or having Tourette’s”. I wouldn’t have thought that being deaf or having Tourette’s syndrome would hinder someone’s chance of having a relationship. The blurb now reads: “too many people … consider some to be undateable”. I doubt that most people who seem someone with a disability would immediately assume that that person would be considered ‘undateable’

Each of the three episodes focuses on three of the ‘undateables’ as they sign up to dating agencies around the country and try to get matched up with people to go on dates with and hopefully fall in love with. I was  The first episode firstly follows 37 year old Richard who is an amateur radio enthusiast who has Asperger’ syndrome. He will only date a woman within a 5 mile radius and won’t eat on dates. In this episode we also get introduced to 23 year old Luke who suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome who is a stand up comedian who has an active social life but is worried about chatting up a girl for fear of calling her a whore or something worse. We also meet Penny, 23, who is training to be a teacher and has a genetic disorder which means her bones are very brittle.

Penny, Richard and Luke all get dates in the first episode and we follow them as they prepare for these dates. The episode is rather warm – apart from the slightly patronising voiceover which often reinforces the fact that this is often that person’s first ever date. Richard’s date is with a woman called Dawn and it seems to be going well until he starts to eat from her plate and she promptly leaves. Luke’s date goes better as they decide to meet up for a second date. Penny’s does not go well either as she didn’t feel the spark. It just shows that even if you do have some form of disability that the course of true love sometimes runs smooth and other times it does not.

In the second episode we met Justin who has tumours on his face and body and in this episode we see him go on a date with Tracy. After Justin we meet Shaine, 31, who is a poet from Bournemouth who has learning difficulties. We see Shaine go on a date with a woman who he becomes smitten with yet she does not return his feelings and lastly we meet Carolyne, 29, who is wheelchair-bound and paralyzed from the chest down after a weak blood vessel in her spinal cord burst one night while she was sleeping. Carolyne goes on a date with Wayne which seems to go well, however we are never told how the date goes. This episode seems to play quite a lot on Shaine’s eccentricity such as the scene where he talks to an answer phone as if it is a two way conversation is played out for obvious entertainment reasons.

The final episode is by far the most warming. This episode follows 27 year old Sam who suffers from Down’s Syndrome, 24 year old Haydn who suffers from a facial disfigurement and Kali who suffers from Williams Syndrome. In this episode there are some genuinely sweet and amusing moments such as Kali falling wildly in love with someone in 5 minutes and them promptly falling out of it 5 minutes later. The biggest success story in the whole series is that of Sam and his matched suitor Jolene. After they go on their date it is obvious that Sam is smitten and when he finally asks her to be his girlfriend she is taken aback at first and bursts out laughing. After she calms down she agrees. Anyone who doesn’t find that moment heart-warming has a heart of stone!

I think the show title is slightly misleading as it just proves that people with disabilities are dateable and that they can lead ‘normal’ lives. Even though Channel 4 was trying to change the perceptions of disabled people calling it “The Undateables” means people will already have perceptions of what these people are like or what they look like. Seems like people are always going to judge people who look different to them no matter what.


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