Ellie on Strictly! | Air industry disabled nightmares | Media ‘faking it’ shenanigans | Kids’ TV show Best Foot Forward
Ok, you may have noticed it’s no longer early autumn. Well what’s wrong with looking back a little? What is time, really? Anyway, crip time…
Paralympic darling Ellie Simmonds joined BBC favourite Strictly Come Dancing. They have a good record on disability – Deaf actor Rose Ayling Ellis won last year.
Judge Shirley Ballas came in gushing. Larger than life… (?!) She congratulated Ellie’s non-disabled pro partner for partnering her. Click here for my poor-quality recorded extract on insta.
Non-disabled people being praised for their proximity to us is a thing – think kind athlete takes disabled girl to prom memes. Watching your friend / colleague / partner being congratulated for spending time with you isn’t going to feel super.
Also in the first week, Ellie’s dance partner kept bending down – something people often do with wheelchair users & people with dwarfism, to deal with the height difference. The thing is – it feels weird and looks awkward.
Disabled people crashing into the mainstream, when we’ve been siphoned off in ‘inspirational’ media, will throw these things up.
By the 2nd week, Shirley’s tone shifted & Nikita’s posture snapped back. Strictly is good at correcting itself.
Cathy Reay wrote movingly about her daughters’ delight at seeing someone with dwarfism on Saturday night TV for The Guardian.
Air Industry Disabled Nightmares, or Here We Go Again
At least once a month I stumble on someone on social media whose wheelchair’s been destroyed at an airport. These aren’t naive people – they took every imaginable precaution. The distress is hard to watch. Somehow, airlines are able to safely fly concert cellos and racehorses, but not wheelchairs. But for once, the latest instalment in my least favourite real-life drama wasn’t a broken wheelchair story.
Jennie Berry’s plane video made it far outside disability world this September. Please watch it.
Many were shocked to see a woman dragging herself along the floor to get to the loo. But disabled people weren’t.
In Albastar Airlines’ statement the CEO says he’d prefer Jennie’s partner drag her along the floor, rather than her dragging herself. (Which shows a bizarre misunderstanding of disability, movement and, erm, people.)
“the key point here is to ask why her partner did not help her get to the toilet rather than spending his time filming.”Albastar Airlines, 2022
This wasn’t a one-off, a mistake. This was policy.
We’re talking about an industry that broke more than 27 wheelchairs a day in one year in the USA, after all.
A few weeks later, Jennie was interviewed on Good Morning Britain on ITV. It was beautifully managed by Jennie, and – more surprisingly – by the hosts.
There’s an edited extract of the interview here on my instagram, or on My London.
Jennie’s petition to make aisle chairs compulsory is here – please sign it.
Oh good. Another “faking it” story from Knitting Weekly.
(Ok no – The Daily Mail – it’s just so, so predictable.)
Faking it stories are cranked out with mind-numbing regularity. Confused suspicion surrounds disability – groups of wannabe detectives hang out on forums, zooming in on photos of disabled people’s legs. Wheelchair users get gotcha ‘your leg moved!’ comments, one-legged models are targeted by sleuths insisting they’ve deleted a leg in photoshop.
Anyone who’s actually been disabled can see the non-logic – I mean the perks are crap.
But the idea goes on and on – even Jennie in the airline story above got comments accusing her of faking her paralysis.
I have a theory on this. Disability makes many people very, very uncomfortable. We tend to believe medicine has the answer to everything – that ‘painkillers’ actually kill pain, that chronic illness and disability are avoidable if you jump through the right hoops – eat x, exercise x amount. So it can’t ever happen to you. Phew.
Disabled people serve as a living reminder that it’s not real – our bodies are fallible. It could happen to us. And who wants to believe that?! How much more comfortable is a world in which disability is avoidable?
So blame the disabled people – they’re faking, or not *really* ill. Because that makes the world feel a far more comfortable place.
(Except for us disabled people, obviously.)
Best Foot Forward – a Kids’ Comedy Drama From Josh Sundquist
Disclaimer: I haven’t watched Best Foot Forward – we don’t have access to Apple TV.
But it’s a mainstream TV drama for children which absolutely centres a disabled character.
It also stars a young disabled actor – Logan Marmino, who Sundquist tracked down on instagram – and has a disabled creator behind it.
Josh Sundquist is a one-legged comedian, author and former paralympian – Best Foot Forward is loosely based on his life. We’ve followed him for years. His Halloween costumes are a particular joy.
Best Foot Forward is unusual in including people with disabilities on both sides of the camera.
It’s interesting to see how far and fast things are shifting – the New York Times interviewed Sundquist.
He was frank – initially he just took it for granted they’d be casting a non-disabled child actor for the main role.
Sundquist has been around entertainment for decades – this was still the norm until really rather recently.
The Squeaky Wheel
Lastly, if you appreciate satire, get yourself down to The Squeaky Wheel.
With a team of disabled writers, and titles like ‘Disabled Woman Frantically Fixing Posture Before Parents’ Visit’ and ‘Able-bodied Spirit Feels Insensitive Possessing Disabled Doll‘, this is satire from the inside.
Their merchandise is also very well worth checking out.
This was a bit of an experiment – I wrote this up at the beginning of October for instagram, but it seemed like a shame not to put it here too. Is it wise to put up news a month late? Well, no. But I enjoyed doing it. Frustrating that the videos are only viewable by clicking through to our instagram, but I can’t think of a solution that wouldn’t be circuitous.
– Lucy Catchpole
1 – featured image. Text reads: ‘Things I found interesting in Sept’
My list reads:
‘Airline treats disabled person with disdain. Again.
Strictly Come Dancing!
Media: young disabled tiktokers are probably just complaining.
Kids’ tv about disabled child casts actual disabled child’
2 – A photo of Ellie Simmonds. My text reads ‘Paralympic darling Ellie Simmonds OBE is on Strictly. Miraculously, most judges did not repeat words like ‘special’ & ‘inspiring’ on a loop. Cathy Reay wrote for The Guardian about what this rep means to her & her daughters. Strictly is doing pretty well.’
3 – A badly shot still from a video of Shirley – Strictly judge. Text reads: ‘But one judge couldn’t quite help herself. She gushed at Ellie’s partner, called Ellie a ‘young lady’, I’m afraid there was… wordplay. “Larger than life”?! It was all getting a bit inspiration-ish, but by next week her tone was sorted.’
4 – A still from Jennie @ wheelie_good_life’s video – subtitles visible read “then when I asked if I could go to the toilet they’ve said no” – it shows her moving along the aisle floor using her arms, on a crowded plane. My text reads: ‘Last month… Jennie Berry wheelie_good_life’s plane video went viral. Airlines routinely treat disabled people badly. They break 27 wheelchairs a DAY. Bad treatment is not an exception – it’s the norm. Respect to Jennie for sharing this. Please sign her petition. See wheelie_good_life for full video & petition. Disability round-up’
5 – A still from a video of Jennie on TV. Text reads: ‘An update: Jennie was interviewed on GMTV – she was a total pro. The hosts were lovely & surprisingly well informed. The CEO’s statement will make your eyes water…’
6 – Text reads: ‘Daily Mail “Addicted to being sad: Teenage girls with invisible illnesses – known as ‘Spoonies’ – post TikToks of themselves crying or in hospital to generate thousands of likes” An image of lily-of-the-valley is underneath. (Because, you know, it’s poisonous.) My text reads ‘Oh good. Another “faking it” story. A “young people are claiming to be chronically ill for ATTENTION in the INTERNET” story. The misery and fear these stories create is next level.’
7 – Over an entirely irrelevant background of vintage knitting images I put there solely to cheer myself up, my text reads: ‘Faking it for “attention”… Because suspicion, shaming & being told to “try yoga” is the dream? OR, society is in denial that chronic, incurable illness exists. ‘Faking it’ doesn’t make sense – but it doesn’t have to. We just need to believe it’s THEIR FAULT. Because then we can dismiss them. And it can’t happen to us…’
8 – A still from the video trailer for Best Foot Forward from Josh Sunquist’s instagram account – a kids’ comedy drama about and starring a one-legged boy. My text reads ‘Apple TV. Kids’ TV drama about disabled child stars actual disabled child! Josh Sundquist is a one-legged comedian. And Best Foot Forward is based on his life. I’ve only seen clips, but I rate Sundquist. It’s exciting to see this representation in pretty mainstream, kids’ comedy.’
9 – My text reads ‘Sundquist originally presumed they’d be casting a non-disabled actor – things are improving.’ Extracts from NYT below, the headline reads ‘Best Foot Forward is a Story About, and by, People With Disabilities.’ (Link to whole article through image above.)
10 – Screenshots from the-squeaky-wheel.com. Two pieces, first ‘Disabled Woman Frantically Fixing Posture Before Parents’ Visit’, second ‘Area Mom Is Prepared with Laser Pointer and PowerPoint Presentation for Annual IEP’. Both are illustrated with intentionally bland stock photos.]