A Watershed TV Moment

I think it’s safe to say that Then Barbara Met Alan is a landmark piece of television. When it aired on BBC2 last night it marked a watershed moment in disability politics and culture. It tells the story of the birth of the disability rights movement like never before, addressing an issue almost completely ignored by the mainstream media. It does so with passion and humanity, depicting disabled people as normal and average , who just happen to be fighting for the rights denied them by a society not yet equipped to meet their needs. At last truths which I, as a man with a disability, have known for a long, long time are being articulated and given voice on national television; our civil rights movement is often overlooked, but is surely just as important as any other.

Just as importantly, the people presenting such truths are their selves disabled people. As detailed here, many of the cast and crew who helped produce the film were disabled. This wasn’t a case of anyone presuming to speak for us for once, but disabled people speaking for ourselves. We are hedonistic and rebellious people who don’t want to be patronised by charity fests or pity porn. We know what rights we deserve, and are willing to fight for them. It felt so good to see disabled people at last being represented in this way: it was like an important, watershed moment. At last we can be seen for who we are, forced to fight for freedoms everybody else takes for granted.

Then Barbara Met Alan tells the a history which needed to be told; it’s just a shame it was so long in the telling. And I certainly hope there are more films like it to come.

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