Phew! The Next Leg response has been even more passionate and controversial than last time! My little blog has attracted followers ranging from Editor in Chiefs of major publications to famous actors to the prestigious Wow Campaign all with huge followings of their own which is great for raising awareness of the discrimination faced everyday by disabled people. The Next Leg also caught the attention of Fightback4Justice founded by Lawyer Michelle Cardno Llb (Hons) Employment Law specialist. Winner of The Peoples Champion Award by Left Foot Forward, and finalist of the National Diversity Awards 2014, the organisation focuses on fighting the corner of disabled people through Welfare Benefits Appeals. Fightback4Justice engaged a whole new audience to my blog including specialist lawyers, human rights campaigners and of course disabled people who again resonate my experience.
I have also been contacted by a lovely lady and author of the blog Grumpy Spastic Woman who published a response to my blog post ‘The Next Leg’ shockingly on her experience of disability discrimination also at the ITV Studios to see The Last Leg!
Herself, her husband and another woman were pulled out of the refreshments queue to ‘get out of the way’ of the able-bodied people and asked to wait in a dark corner as if they were subhuman, an unwanted nuisance.
Catch the full story by Grumpy Spastic Woman here
So it seems it has happened before, despite Executive Producer, Ben Wicks specifically telling me it hasn’t! 🤔 It beggars belief that a programme built on disability draws so much discrimination and hostility. To answer your constant question #isitok ? No I’m afraid it just isn’t.
Renowned disability rights blogger and campaigner Sue Marsh also contacted me. Sue regularly writes for the Guardian and is also famously known for her blog Diary of a Benefit Scrounger. Instantly identifying with my blog, Sue expressed that the exact same thing happened to her:
(For those who do not know, spoonie is a term used to describe a person with a chronic illness). Sue was asked to be a panellist on The Big Benefits Row which you may remember was screened last year. Her personal friend and journalist Mik Scarlet, wrote an article for The Huffington Post describing the events that unfolded of their visit to the Channel 5 show. They both arranged to meet beforehand with a few friends who were to be members of the show’s audience. (Bearing in mind as described in my own blog, being disabled and getting anywhere means a lot of organisation and a much longer, more taxing journey than for the average able bodied person).
Already on route to the studios, Sue was told at the last minute that she had been dropped from the panel but told she could still sit in the audience. With a panel already consisting of Edwina Currie and Katie Hopkins the group of friends were already apprehensive about the show, it was certainly going to be a live one, literally and metaphorically! Nevertheless they continued to the studios where they were presented with another problem. Four of their party were wheelchair users including Sue, but as she her status had been changed to ‘audience member’, it transpired that only three wheelchair users were allowed onto the studio floor, for ‘fire safety reasons’. Mik goes on to say; ‘any disabled reader will know how much effort it took for us all not to explode with anger as the old “fire hazard” line was trotted out.’
Well yes, I myself have had this line declared to me at airports when being told I cannot sit in the seat with the most leg room which my condition requires, i.e; the seat by the exit door, to this day I do not understand how disabled people are more flammable than able-bodied people? I do not wear cheap perfume or combustible man-made fabrics, ok maybe sometimes, but only if essential, i.e: leopard print. And the argument about the ‘person nearest the door has to be able to open the door’ doesn’t wash either, I do not have any so called ‘obstructive aids’ and regardless, who is seriously going to form an orderly queue during an emergency whilst a single person (disabled or not) is trying to open the door? No I’m pretty sure some one or some people would attempt to open the door instead.
I digress, that one is for another blog, another day. So it was at this point that Sue, having to adhere to the ‘three wheelchair studio policy’ was forced to leave her wheelchair, use a stick and sit on one of the uncomfortable studio chairs all so that her friends could stay in the studio. It was at this point the group were discussed as if they were not there;
It saddens me to hear that disabled people are treated as if they should not be seen and not heard in the 21st century and more to the point it is against the law. Mik Scarlet’s full article is worth catching click here.
I should mention, I have also a negative response – well, one negative which has been described by many as a ‘rather suspicious’ comment on The Next Leg by ‘Kim’. She ignored the discrimination of my visits and instead overly praised production staff and echoed the comments of The Last Leg Executive Producer, Ben Wicks and Open Mike Productions Line Manager, Sarah Croker on the night; that the main thing is I got to see the show and entry to The Green Room. ‘Kim’ added, ‘I personally think even if a red carpet had been laid out for you, you would have still had criticism.’ It is shocking that anyone would think, let alone put in writing, that the need for basic human rights is having ‘a red carpet laid out’, disabled people should not be treated as submissive, grateful subordinates in the 21st-century. But then again, to be honest, loose floor coverings are probably not advisable for those of us with mobility issues, so maybe you’re right Kim, we wouldn’t be happy if a red carpet was laid out for us.
Once again I am writing this blog on behalf of all disabled people not just myself, so when a comment is made to me against my disability, it is being made against all with a disability because as we have seen in just a couple of the cases mentioned above, I am clearly not ‘the only one’. Things need to change all around, not just at ITV and The Last Leg but across the board. Surely writers of open letters and blog posts, such as myself, Sue Marsh, Mik Scarlet and the author of Grumpy Spastic Woman et al should not be vilified but instead be seen as invaluable (and free) consultants in helping media and production companies achieve a fair access policy which satisfies the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, 2005 and Equality Act 2010? I really hope a change is gonna come…
How did ITV Studios respond? See ITV Response to The Last Leg