Entertainment & Culture

Strictly Come Dancing 2019: is Will Bayley going to change perceptions of disability?

On 7 September 2019 Paralympic table tennis champion Will Bayley will take part in his family’s favourite show – Strictly Come Dancing. We at Disability Horizons love Strictly Come Dancing and are thrilled to see another disabled celebrity joining the show this year. But how will his participation in Strictly Come Dancing affect people’s perceptions of disabled people?  

Disabled people are still underrepresented in British mainstream prime-time television. Will Bayley’s participation in Strictly Come Dancing, the fourth disabled celebrity to join the show, may demonstrate that disabled people should not be defined by their impairments, but by their dreams and ambitions.

Bayley’s impact will partly depend on his performance on the dance floor. But also on his attitude and likeability.

Tell us what you think about Will Bayley’s appearance in Strictly Come Dancing. Message us on Facebook, tweet @DHorizons or comment below.

Who is Will Bayley?

Paralympian Will Bayley

Will Bayley (31) is the most successful British table tennis Paralympian today. Since Disability Horizons last interviewed Will Bayley shortly before the Rio Paralympics in 2016, his career and life have risen even further.

Will won a gold medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympics and was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (BE) for services to table tennis. He and his girlfriend, Fiona York, are now parents of daughter Bella.

Read our interview with Will Bayley and learn more about Paralympic Table Tennis

Why is Will Bayley participating in Strictly Come Dancing?

As a celebrity and successful sportsman, Will was invited to participate. He gladly accepted for two reasons. Firstly, Will said he feels honoured to be participating in his family’s favourite show.

Secondly, he wants to inspire disabled people and show the world that he and other disabled people are up to new challenges.

Will Bayley has no dance experience and a balance disorder – how is that going to work on Strictly Come Dancing?

Bayley certainly likes to challenge himself. He has admitted to having no dance experience – a challenge for a number of the contestants.

On top of that, Bayley’s disability, Arthrogryposis or curved joints, means he has impaired balance. Arthrogryposis usually results in stiff joints and muscle weakness and is something he was born with.

Bayley’s condition raises the stakes further. His balance problems could put him at a disadvantage, but he’s clearly hard-working and keen to put in the hours for training.

Will shining on the dance floor or even winning Strictly Come Dancing would be a fantastic achievement to add to his many successes.

Whatever the outcome, we at Disability Horizons hope that Will Bayley will enjoy himself and win people’s hearts as much as performing well on Strictly Come Dancing.

Jonnie Peacock, Lauren Steadman, and Katie Piper – Will Bayley follows in the footsteps of other disabled contestants 

Will Bayley is not the first disabled Paralympian or celebrity to take part in Strictly Come Dancing.

Jonnie Peacock’s successful participation in the show in 2017 has ensured that disabled contestants have been included in the Strictly Come Dancing line up each year ever since.

Paralympian Lauren Steadman preceded him, alongside acid attack survivor Katie Piper.

But none of these participants had a disability that affected their balance or core strength in quite the same way. Jonnie is a leg amputee and wears a blade, which could have, in some ways, affected his balance and the way he tackled dance moves.

Lauren is also an amputee, but in her case only has an upper right arm. This didn’t make any difference to her strength on the dance floor, but meant that her partner AJ needed to adjust some of the hold positions.

Katie had scarring on her face and parts of her body, some of which will have altered the way she could move. 

Read our full articles on Jonnie Peacock and Lauren Steadman alongside Katie Piper to learn more about the stars’ journeys and watch them in action.

Jonnie Peacock on Strictly Come DancingJonnie, Lauren and Katie have different backgrounds and impairments, but they share a sense of purpose and seek to challenge barriers, boundaries and conventions.

They are all also dedicated to contributing to the lives of disabled people through charities, by speaking out and showing everyone that disabled individuals can do much more than expected.

We believe that they all helped to change perceptions about what disabled people can accomplish, assisted by the fact that all three were already high-flyers in Paralympic sports or other fields.

But we want your opinion on Strictly Come Dancing. Tell us what you think about disabled contestants in mainstream prime time shows such as Strictly Come Dancing.

  • What do you think disabled contestants have contributed so far?
  • Have they truly changed perceptions?
  • What is still missing in media portrayals of disabled Strictly Come Dancing contestants?

Tell us what you think by messaging us on Facebook, tweeting @DHorizons or commenting below.

You can also follow Will’s progress on Twitter or Facebook @WillBayleytt and WillBayleyGB.

By Karen Mogendorff, Disability Horizons Deputy Editor

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