It is 2018 yet there are some who still believe that disability is a form of punishment for the disabled individual, a kind of karma for their past mistakes. I have always encountered people who were very eager to tell me that Jesus loves me or that God is washing my ‘sins’ and I will be compensated and some have even suggested that my predicament is a result of my parents’ wrong doings. Whatever the explanation that I have been offered, the end result is the same; disability is a negative aspect that is ‘served’ as a punishment.
To hear this view or to meet people who express such an opinion is irritating but to see it performed on TV is a very uncomfortable viewing. Being a huge fan of the ITV long running soap, Coronation Street I have always been impressed by its hard hitting storylines and representation of disabled characters but few weeks ago I was taken back by the incorporation of disability as a mean of punishment or social justice.
The storyline began when the character of David Platt played by Jack Peter Shepherd was raped by Josh Tucker played by Ryan Clayton and due to lack of evidence, Tucker escaped legal punishment which did anger the soap’s fans but portrayed a reality; that many rape crime do go unpunished. This is something that the former soap producer Kate Oates had always argued that punishment might not be of a legal nature. “In soap, a lot of the justice comes from the community”. A few weeks ago this ‘justice’ or punishment came in the form of visual impairment. as the character of Josh Tucker got beaten up so badly that it left him partially blind and dependent on others.
As I watched this story unfold I could not help but feel extremely uncomfortable, the first thing that crossed my mind was England’s former football manager, Glenn Hoddle, who over twenty years ago was sacked from his position for voicing his opinion on why some individuals live with disability. At the time he suggested that people born with disabilities were being punished for the sins of a former life and under public pressure he soon resigned.
So why after all these years no one seems to be offended or bothered about the idea that Coronation Street are indirectly portraying, or the message that they are giving the general public; disability is a punishment. Do the soap makers not realise the powerful impact it has across the country? And how their storylines affect people and shape general opinions. Could the fact that Coronation Street is such a huge soap that people won’t question its intention? But there was a public outcry at few stories in the past, so why is the current story has not drawn any objection. I personally believe that some people do think that disability is a form of punishment, if you witness an argument between a group of people you would undoubtedly hear derogatory terms of disability being used as insult or abuse because after all disability is a negative thing in the eyes of society.
Coronation Street are playing a dangerous game one that will further encourage people to judge the disability of others and put forward an idea that was more common in the medieval time; wrong doings results in living with disability. How are we going back in time? and why after years of activism disabled people are being targeted just for being disabled.
I am often asked ‘what happened to you’ when people see me and I try my best to explain my disability, I wonder after this storyline whether people will ask ‘why this happened to you?’ Dropping the ‘what’ for the ‘why’.