After stumbling on this BBC Celebrity Wheelchair Challenge, a one-off (I think) program, I began to wonder about other such challenges or programs. Many of us wheelchair drivers have chafed over disabled parts in TV shows and movies being given to non-disabled actors (most famously the part of Artie on the show Glee), and the lack of disabled people in popular culture in general. (No wheeler talkshow/game show/news show host or contestants?) No wheelers appearing as actors/extras in TV shows or commercials? And when they are, (yes, every now and then I see a wheelchair in the background, and yes, I know there was a disabled guy in a Swiffer ad.) there is often a big deal made of them. Like wow, DESPITE being a wheelchair, this person can actually dance/sing/go to a restaurant. There is as big stink being made, and rightly so, about body type acceptance, which focuses almost entirely on “plus-size” women. I searched You Tube and found some videos from people who challenged themselves to a day in a chair: Break The Box Challenge, A Day in a Wheelchair, Wheelchair For A Day, (with the irreprressable Bethany). I could easily have spent the day perusing videos like these, but I think this is enough to make my point. (These folks all had such fun, perhaps due to the knowledge that the day after their challenge, they could resume their regular, abled-bodied lives.)
My meandering point is this: I would love to see more of this on regular TV. How about a Naked and Afraid, with ordinary people (clothed, let’s not make this TOO hard), left to their own devices in wheelchairs in challenging places. Or a Survivor type show – watch them survive in Seattle or Boston in a wheelchair. Let them keep their ordinary lives, just insert them into a wheelchair. How about The Amazing Race with one team in wheelchairs. (I do not watch any of these shows, so there very well may have been teams in wheelchairs featured – please correct me if I am wrong.) It would not take much to turn someone’s normal reality into a challenge simply by putting them in a wheelchair.
Has there ever been a local or national news anchor in a wheelchair? Has there ever been a game show or talk show host in a wheelchair? I don’t advocate making it a special search, but there is so much attention paid to ensuring diversity – no dearth of news coorespondents of different genders or races. Why doesn’t diversity extend to physical ability? (Now that I think of it, why are there no “plus-size” news/game show/talk show hosts?)
Perhaps I don’t watch enough TV, or don’t watch the right shows. Perhaps there are disabled people all over the place that I’m just not seeing. I would be very happy to be corrected if I am missing something.