Saturday, February 10, 2007

In Touch

Many thanks to Ailbhe for putting the link to the Radio Four programme In Touch as a comment on Save the Children, my post of February 7. You can still listen to the programme here:

Many blind people had complained that the programme showed blind people in a bad light: they argued that there are not many programmes about blind people on television and to show one which shows them in such a negative way is to do a disservice to blind people.

I don’t agree: I don’t think that the fact that the couple were blind was really the issue. In fact, if we are only ever to see programmes about blind people that show them as wonderful, caring, coping beings, then we are, most certainly, treating them as a special minority, different from the rest of us.

Accepting that blind people can have all the personality traits, good and bad, that the rest of us have, is to treat them with respect.

What we don’t do is portray blind people in a positive light in the rest of television. In television dramas you never get a character who just happens to be blind, if the blindness is not central to the storyline – and the same is true of any other disability. If someone’s blind, or deaf, or in a wheelchair, it’s because it’s part of the plot. That’s the real issue as far as blind people are concerned.

Below is the comment that I left on the In Touch website:

I am not blind and listened to the discussion on "In Touch" about Jane Treays' film about Paul and Amanda and their children with interest.

I saw the programme twice. To me it was perfectly clear that the problem was not caused by the couple's blindness - it was caused by their learning difficulties, their background and their personalities.

Neither was the issue the lack of support for blind people with families - Paul and Amanda had turned down almost all support offered. The central issue, to me, was the exploitation of the older children and the deprived lives they led: and whether we, as a society, should allow a couple like these to turn down support.

I believe that, no matter what the cost, we should insist that this family have a rota of carers to help. Whether this couple should have had so many children is not a relevant issue now: whether they are blind is not an issue. The children need saving from lives of boredom and drudgery.

At least some of us sighted people have enough sense to know that many blind people can cope brilliantly with their families: others can not. Just like sighted people, in fact. Please don't let the fact that the couple were blind divert the debate from the central issues of the programme.


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