Dear Messrs Hills, Widdicombe and Brooker (I bet that’s the first time anyone has referred to Alex as “Messrs”),
I know that you normally use the Twitter hashtag #isitok for discussions, but my question is as such that I don’t think a single tweet can encompass my whole view, so I’m writing this open letter in the hope it will interest you and viewers of the show. My question is this:
#isitok that as someone with a mental and learning disability, I don’t feel as superhuman as people with physical disabilities, such as most of the Paralympians, not to mention two-thirds of yourselves?
I have Asperger’s syndrome, and I’ve come to suspect that people do not give nearly as much attention to people with disabilities such as mine in comparison to physical disabilities. I know this from personal experience through services I was entitled to due to my disability being revoked. I also learnt that people were other learning disabilities, such as ADHD and dyslexia, were also no longer entitled to services. . .
This still doesn’t resolve however the fact that people with mental and learning disabilities are still hugely underrepresented in media coverage, including coverage of the Paralympics. The biggest sign of this is that because Autistic Spectrum Disorders so wide ranging, only a small number of autistic people get to take part in the Paralympics. People like me, who only have mild forms of these conditions, would never get the chance to take part in the Paralympics.
It is all too easy for people, including Channel 4, to show visually that they are supporting disabled people, but it should be remembered that not all disabilities are skin deep. If the BBC can do it with shows such as The A Word, then surely you can too. You could start by showing the Special Olympics on Channel 4 alongside the Paralympics, or even just having more people with mental and learning disabilities on The Last Leg.
If all disabled people are superhumans, then we with the mental and learning disabilities are the mind controllers, the psychics and the espers. Brains and brawn work best together.
I think however that my views are not best summed up in Rio, but in Tokyo where the next Paralympics are held, where I have particular knowledge of certain areas due my expertise as a critic of Japanese anime and manga (cartoons and comics). One series that may interest you is a series called My Hero Academia, streamed online via the website Funimation and released in print by Viz Media. My Hero Academia is set in a world where 80% of humanity has a superpower or “Quirk”, so most people are superheroes. The main character however, Izuku Midoriya, has no powers – i.e. he’s “Quirkless”. In this world, being perfectly normal is a disability. However, Izuku’s favourite hero gives Izuku his Quirk, and so he starts training to be a superhero himself.
My point is this: to all the able bodied people out there – imagine what it would be like with the minority was the majority. Imagine if we the quirky disabled superhumans were the norm. Would you fear us? Would you like us? Only you can answer that.
What I can say is this: if the more bigoted out there are still prepared to describe the disabled as spastics, mongoloids or mentalists, then I for one am more than happy to take part in this war of words and reply that these wrong-headed, able-bodied people are just quirkless, and the best way to do this is this: to stop describing disabled people as “disabled” and instead we should be “quirky”. If that fails, then we will have to resort to fighting back by using “quirkless” as an insult.
Editor, On the Box