Neil Jones branded ‘patronising’ over comments about disabled woman

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Strictly Come Dancing’s Neil Jones sparked some backlash on Wednesday when he tweeted about a young disabled woman he branded “inspirational” after seeing her in a gym.

He wrote: “Today in the gym a young girl who was in her early teens and she got out of her wheelchair and slowly made her way on to the treadmill, doing her best to walk just using her arms to support herself.

“Now I was not going to make a video of this but for me this was inspirational.” (sic)

In the comments, a user named Joanna said she was “so glad” that Neil did not make a video.

She continued: “As a wheelchair user who is a member of a gym (to go swimming) who is working out to keep healthy, the same as you, this is a real fear.

“I am just going about my daily business, I do not want to find myself online to ‘inspire’ a load of non-disabled people.

“This is so patronising, whether you meant it this way or not. Have a look at this for a different view.”

In response to the user, Neil defended himself saying he “would never make a video” without permission.

He clarified: “100 percent would never make a video, that’s why I said it because the amount of video I see popping up without permission including when people help anyone sleeping on the streets.” 

Another user named Sammi also probed: “Can I ask what you found inspirational?

“Many wheelchair users will do physiotherapy like this to build their strength depending on their mobility. (Around a third of wheelchair users are ambulatory).

“Just comes across a bit patronising is all.”

To which Neil replied: “Not really as I work with wheelchair dancers since I was 18 and inspiration should never be negative.” (sic)

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In a follow-up tweet he added: “I have worked with many wheelchair dancers and we inspire each other and that’s what it’s about.

A user also shared a link to a TED Talk from late comedian Stella Young.

She was born with brittle bone disease and used a wheelchair for most of her life until her death in 2014 from an aneurysm.

In the talk, Stella said branding disabled people as “inspirational” is “objectifying them for the benefit of nondisabled people”.

She proclaimed: “The purpose of these images is to inspire you, to motivate you, so that we can look at them and think, ‘Well, however bad my life is, it could be worse. I could be that person’.

“But what if you are that person?” has contacted Neil Jones’ representatives for comment. 

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