BLOG: Should we keep labels for boxes and not people?

Last week, The Metro chatted to West End stars Rachel Tucker and Emma Williams at the Wilma Awards about the need for more accessible performances within the theatre industry, following the introduction of the Achievement In Creating Accessible Theatre Award at the ceremony.

The headline used by The Metro was ‘Wicked’s Rachel Tucker leads host of West End stars in bid to make theatre more accessible for the disabled.’ This heading has struck a nerve with some people online saying that using the term ‘disabled’ isn’t a positive way of referring to people.

A couple of weeks ago, I experienced a similar online conversation after I posted a review of the play ‘Joy‘ at Stratford East Theatre. In my review (which I had tried to ensure was worded in the correct way to avoid offending anyone) I had said something along the lines of the play featuring a mixed cast, some of which ‘had’ learning difficulties. I was contacted in a similar fashion to The Metro, being told that rather than labelling everyone with the term disabled, I should really being saying ‘some of whom identify as having learning difficulties’ as not everyone identifies themselves in the same way. And they were right, who am I to define whether or not someone is disabled?

Creating accessible theatre to allow everyone in the world to be able to experience the same joy of live entertainment, is incredibly important and it is great that these conversations are happening. As an advocate for making theatre accessible to all people, I am still getting it wrong with what to say so as not to offend anyone. But the more we talk about it, the more we will learn what is acceptable and what isn’t.

At the end of the day, many people don’t like to be labelled. Some people don’t like to be defined by looks, gender, sexuality, race or ability. We all just want to be accepted for who we are. The article in The Metro is a brilliant way to open up these conversations and I hope we see more in the future.