I assumed Love Island wouldn't cast someone like me – I can't wait for Ron Hall

‘Hell yeah!’

It’s not often you’ll hear me exclaim like that due to the announcement of a reality TV cast member, but that all changed last week. 

It was thanks to Ron Hall, 25, a financial advisor from Essex who is blind in one eye and is set to enter the Love Island villa when the latest series launches tonight.  

For once, I feel like I have something in common with a Love Island contestant, as I too am blind in one eye. 

I have been visually impaired since age three due to a chronic condition and entirely lost sight in my left eye in my teens.  

As a result, I often find myself the subject of pity when others find out about my condition. 

Among the classic responses are, ‘You cope so well!’, ‘You can’t tell to look at you,’ or my personal favourite, ‘You don’t look like anything is wrong with you.’ 

Love Island is back for 2023

Kiss goodbye to your social life as Love Island is back for its Winter 2023 series.

  • When does Winter Love Island 2023 start?
  • ‘We won Love Island and are still together now – this is what the new contestants should know’
  • James Bond actress Olivia Hawkins promises she won’t name-drop in the villa
  • First look inside sprawling Love Island villa in South Africa ahead of winter series launch

Get all the latest Love Island updates on Metro.co.uk‘s dedicated page.

It makes it all too easy to just not mention my disability, which in turn can lead to feeling ashamed of it.

Now, before I go any further I must admit I am not a die-hard Love Island fan. Due to crippling FOMO, I do have a rough idea of how the series works. I have seen bits over the years and know what ‘salty’ is and what it is to be ‘pied.’

But this year, to my surprise, I’m excited to sit down and watch the ITV2 show. 

And that’s because of Ron. 

In my 35 years on this planet, I can only count on one hand the times I have seen someone on a reality TV with a disability, let alone one similar to mine. And too often they are portrayed with the same pitying tone I’m used to in my own life.  

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Naively, I assumed that a show based so much on looks like Love Island would be unlikely to add to that tally. 

But it’s actually not the first time the series has taken positive steps forward in terms of disability representation. 

Ron follows Tasha Ghouri, who became the first deaf contestant last year. 

2021’s edition also featured Hugo Hammond, who has a club foot.  

Thinking back, I feel guilty that I was so willing to sneer at Love Island in the past. 

I dismissed it for being only about visual aesthetics when actually it has been an incredible example of disabled representation – and more than that, integration.

I truly hope Ron’s participation can be a turning point for people like me, but it is clear we still have so much work to do across the board.

Around 18% of the UK population identify as being disabled, yet on-screen representation is estimated to be as low as 6.8%.   

It begs the question, if Love Island, which is often dismissed as shallow and regressive can allow for disabled representation, then why can’t more programmes?   

Not only should we have more shows that are disabled-focused and tell stories about disabilities, but we need to have ones that feature disability without it being the main or only focus.  

This sort of integration removes the stigma around disability through positive representation. Something Love Island has done very well at.

It’s clear that it is a series that features real-world contestants, and disabilities are a real-world issue. 

No one is immune to disability.

Still, I do worry that the usual prejudices could lurk among the viewing public, and abuse could rear its ugly head, not least on social media. Thankfully, ITV are taking more steps this year to protect contestants from abuse.

Love Island is back for 2023

Kiss goodbye to your social life as Love Island is back for its Winter 2023 series.

  • When does Winter Love Island 2023 start?
  • ‘We won Love Island and are still together now – this is what the new contestants should know’
  • James Bond actress Olivia Hawkins promises she won’t name-drop in the villa
  • First look inside sprawling Love Island villa in South Africa ahead of winter series launch

Get all the latest Love Island updates on Metro.co.uk‘s dedicated page.

And Ron clearly considers himself confident enough to rise above it, saying, ‘I just think of myself as normal, although yeah, I am disabled and I don’t mind the label.’ 

But I don’t doubt that Ron has suffered as a result of disabled prejudice, as I have. 

And that doesn’t have to mean clear abuse; disability prejudice is often sneakier than that.  

It exists in our political system when policies are implemented without a thought for the disabled community or when access requirements aren’t considered, amongst others. 

It exists in the way that disabled people self-censor, as I did in my younger years when I didn’t speak out about what allowances I needed for fear of being a ‘nuisance.’  

Ron expressed his ambition in the villa, aside from his love life, as ‘If there’s someone sitting at home, there’s another lad or girl who’s partially sighted or feels a bit insecure about something to do with their vision, whether it’s blind in one eye, or whatever the situation is, and I can make an impact on them – that’s fantastic.’

Ron’s attitude is a breath of fresh air as he isn’t going in with an agenda but simply as himself. I only wish I had heard someone on TV say this when I was younger but representation is better late than never. 

On a broader scale, I hope that Love Island helps set a standard and more shows get on board regarding disabled representation. 

And when that happens, we all benefit. 

For me, that could be as simple as telling someone about my sight loss and they don’t react with shock and pity, because they’ve seen my condition normalised on TV.

Either way, Ron’s participation can only be a good thing, and I certainly regret being ‘salty’ about the show. 

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