Small screen, big difference

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This is an article from Unfold newsletter.

There are still way too few disabled people on TV. But with your support, programmes and attitudes are finally starting to change.

TV isn’t tuned in to the reality

The small screen has a huge problem. 13 million disabled people live in the UK today – that’s 21 per cent of our society. Yet just 6.5 per cent of people on TV are disabled. It’s just not good enough.

Samantha Renke knows how difficult it is for disabled people to appear on screen. “I have brittle bone disease”, she says, “but I never let that get in the way of my dream to become an actor. Sadly not everyone feels the same way. I remember a teacher taking me to one side, and telling me not to get my hopes up of being cast in an acting role.”

Changing the script and changing attitudes

The lack of diversity on our screens sends out all the wrong signals, and it has really damaging effects. The more disabled people are ignored, the higher the barriers they face.

And if non-disabled people don’t see disabled people on TV, then they’re more likely to avoid them in real life. A staggering 40 per cent of people in the UK have actually avoided talking to a disabled person, for fear of saying the wrong thing or being patronising.

With its audience of millions, TV is a powerful tool for changing people’s attitudes towards disability. And you’re helping us work with the TV industry, so more disabled people are centre screen.

TV is starting to switch on to disabled people

With your support, we worked with the confectionery brand Mars to produce a series of TV advertisements for Maltesers. Inspired by the real-life experiences of disabled people, the ads
featured Samantha and other disabled actors as they revealed their most embarrassing moments.

During the Paralympics, the ads were broadcast on TV to an audience of millions. Samantha and the rest of the cast got people laughing, grimacing, and thinking different about disability.

“People don’t want to approach disabled people, but since I was on the ad people can’t wait to speak to me. This is why it’s so important to have more disabled people in the media.” Samantha Renke

Your continued support will help bring us closer to a future where more disabled people are seen all over TV, in all sorts of programmes. So keep tuning in to see the difference you’re making!

Scope exists to make this country a place where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. Until then, we'll be here.

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