Writer and playwright Jack Thorne urged the television industry to do more for people with disabilities, saying it had “completely and utterly” failed them.
He also referred to the diagnosis of cholinergic urticaria at the age of 20, which makes people allergic to their own body heat, describing it as “chronic and very painful”.
Thorne, the winner of five Baftas, has written for television series including His Dark Materials, Kiri and The Virtues, and films including Enola Holmes, The Secret Garden and The Aeronauts.
The 42-year-old also wrote the screenplay for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Olivier and Tony’s award-winning play based on JK Rowling’s wizarding books.
While delivering the prestigious MacTaggart talk at this year’s Edinburgh TV Festival, which was held largely virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, he went on to say that due to his own personal circumstances he has ” considered a vital part of my professional life to try and pursue the cause of the disabled ”.
But he admitted, “And in most cases, I failed. Mainly because of my own shortcomings. But also, because the world of television is against telling stories of disabled people with disabled talents. “
Thorne described disability as “the forgotten diversity, the one that everyone leaves out in speeches”.
He added: “Gender, race, sexuality, all are rightly discussed at length. The handicap is relegated. In conversations about representation, in action plans and planning for the new era, disability is confined to the corner, there remains an afterthought.
“The actors – actors I admire – took on roles they shouldn’t have had; I have been complicit in some of these decisions. The producers ignored the disabled writers.
“The commissioners did not take the opportunity to tell disabled stories. There are very few disabled people in front of the camera, let alone behind.
“Television has let people with disabilities down. Totally and totally.
Addressing ways the industry needs to improve, Thorne urged TV commissioners to hire people with disabilities to tell their own stories.
He also highlighted the impact of the pandemic on people with disabilities, adding: “It has, of course, been a cruel year. Just like last year has been a cruel year. We have all lost so much.
“And, personally, I think the biggest thing we lost was a little bit of humanity. Because this year has been a year of ableism unlike any I have seen before. It was a year when many people with disabilities died.
He said the term underlying health problem, used to describe those most clinically vulnerable to coronavirus, has helped people come to terms with “this unnecessary death” and the “ridiculous idea” that there is. has “two rows of deaths, those that people should be worried about – those who are ‘healthy’ – and those who are not.”
Thorne follows in the footsteps of Rupert Murdoch, Armando Iannucci and Michaela Coel in giving the talk.