Review: Disabled in an Instant

3 August 2015

by Natasha Valladares

Natasha ValladaresProviding serious insight into the lives of those who become Disabled in an Instant, BBC Three’s latest contribution to their ‘Defying the Label’ season is a story of frustration. It is narrated by actor and sportsman Peter Mitchell 13 years after he was paralysed in a car accident. The programme looks into the reality of acquired disability.

In exploring the difficulties in things such as getting housing adapted, getting benefits paid out and returning to work, the show highlighted the systemic problems that are the real limitations for disabled people.

I felt the show was a really good representation of what it is to become disabled. Having my condition present itself in my late teens, I have had to adjust to a life that is vastly different to what I knew before. While becoming disabled can happen in an instant, the support is not always so immediate.

I could identify with the endless waiting for medical treatment and, sadly, also with Rick when he said his government assessors asked him questions that amounted to asking, ‘Have you ever maybe thought about not being disabled?’ It’s just as Peter said, the people on the show have ‘not just been unlucky’. The problems they’ve faced are problems disabled people are facing across the country. 

I was also struck by the attention to detail. Things that are normally overlooked by mainstream media, and those unaffected by disability, were included but not exaggerated, just shown for what they are. We watched Peter as he transferred himself from wheelchair to car and disassembled his chair to stow it, where normally the editors would cut that footage out.

The show was full of moments like this and it really added credibility to the documentary as a piece of serious television. At the same time it provided a very true representation of life for disabled people. 

The key message for me was society’s role in disability. Disability advocate Jane, who has campaigned for change over the last 30 years, explained the false economy of cutting support for disabled people. Without the infrastructure to enable people like me to pick up our lives on the other side of the ‘before’ and ‘after’ divide, she says, ‘Frankly, you’re stuck’. 

So for her, me and the 11 million other people like us in the UK, the priority has to be ensuring there are provisions for access, support and equipment that enables rather than disables.

Natasha Valladares is a policy and campaigns assistant at Leonard Cheshire Disability, through our Change100 scheme.


I was annoyed to see the minister for the disabled Justin Tomlinson giving the impression that he was sympathetic towards disabled people. His voting record on welfare issues reveals the opposite.

Add new comment