Ausnew Home Care | Reality TV shows Big Brother, The Voice

Reality TV shows Big Brother, The Voice and The Amazing Race helping to 'crush' stigma around disability

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When Tim McCallum was selected to be a contestant on The Voice in 2015, he told producers he wanted people to focus on his singing rather than his disability. 

"I was very open and honest with the producers and the creators of the show early on that I wanted to be treated equally—and if my talent wasn't good enough, I wanted to be knocked out," he said.

Mr McCallum, who is a quadriplegic, said the producers were very respectful and understanding of him wanting to be seen as a competitor rather than someone who had got onto the show due to an "amazing backstory".

A profile shot of Tim McCallum in his wheelchair Ausnew Home Care, NDIS registered provider, My Aged Care
Tim McCallum said he wanted to get onto the show purely based on his singing ability. (

Supplied: Tim McCallum


"For me it was great to wheel out onto the stage and know the coaches weren't looking at my disability and were only concentrating on my voice."

He said that was the main reason he went on The Voice and he does not believe his time on the show changed people's perspectives about him.

Tim McCallum on stage with judges in the foreground
Mr McCallum said the show's coaches understood he wanted to be treated like any other competitor.  (

Supplied: Tim McCallum


"I think whenever somebody who is different is shown achieving something in the spotlight, it has an effect on those out in the community who might need a lift, some encouragement and even some inspiration at times."

Is your leg waterproof?

Big Brother contestant and Australian Paralympic swimmer Sam Bramham said he was upfront with producers before entering the house. 

Big Brother contestant Sam Bramham with Big Brother host Sonia Kruger (1)
Sam Bramham with Big Brother host Sonia Kruger.(

Supplied: Channel Nine


Sam was born missing part of his leg and what remained was amputated when he was five-years-old.

Mr Bramham recalls the discussion he had with producers around whether there was a need to put any requirements in place before he entered the house. 

"They asked me if my prosthetic leg was waterproof as they anticipated me getting pushed into the pool by a fellow housemate or if there were any challenges involving water," he said.

'Stop tiptoeing around disability'

When the ABC asked whether being on a reality show like Big Brother changed people's perceptions around disability, Mr Bramham said he encouraged the other housemates to "just ask him" about his disability. 

"For example, some housemates would tiptoe around my disability, rather than just ask," he said.

"It irks me that some able-bodied people feel like they have to carefully navigate their way through a minefield of political correctness to find out about disability."

sam bramham doing an obstacle course on ninja warrior
Sam Bramham also did a stint on Ninja Warrior. (

Supplied: Ninja Warrior


"I was never treated differently because of my disability, in fact, everyone had gotten over the fact that I had a prosthetic leg by the third or fourth week."

Reality TV stint a 'life-changing opportunity'

Skye-Blue Henderson, who does not identify as having a disability, said she had one defiant reason for appearing on The Amazing Race Australia.

When she was asked why she was applying, she was very direct with producers. 

Skye-Blue Henderson abseiling
Skye-Blue Henderson said she was driven to push herself by the stigma and assumptions people made about her because she was missing her hand.(

Supplied: The Amazing Race Australia


"After the initial application, there was the stage two process, which was two Skype interviews in which the question was asked: 'Why have you applied for The Amazing Race?'

Ms Henderson said unfortunately most people make assumptions based on what people look like.

"As they judge and make up their minds based on the thought process: 'I can't think of how I would do that with one hand so she can't' — it is that stigma that really pushed me.

''My whole life I have had people say 'no' and 'you can't' more times than anything else and having this incredible experience grant me the opportunity to really crush that stigma and belief was amazing, and life changing, for so many."

Skye-Blue Henderson on her surfboard in the ocean
Skye-Blue Henderson wants to combat the stigma around disability. (



Asked how she was treated by production staff and the other contestants, Ms Henderson said she was treated equally. 

"I think the process of me being on the show really changed the perspective of not only the viewers but also everyone I was surrounded by.

"Production, other staff and the other contestants saw me as a competitor there to win and push beyond my limits just like everyone else.

A supportive environment

Ms Henderson said the entire cast and crew had access to psychologists on The Amazing Race

"All contestants speak with them one-on-one before starting the journey that is," she said. 

She personally never needed to speak to them during or after the race, however, they were there if she needed their help. 

The Voice contestant Tim McCallum singing
Tim McCallum said it was amazing to go on stage knowing the coaches were only focusing on his voice.  (

Supplied: Tim McCallum


Mr McCallum said there was a psychologist on The Voice involved in each step of the process to ensure their emotional health and well-being was monitored and they were cared for. 

Mr Bramham said they were encouraged to speak to the resident psychologist from day one. 

"We were always offered mental health and medical support services throughout the show," he said.

"I was told that some of the Big Brother voices were actually psychologists, which makes a lot of sense." 

Reflecting on their time spent on reality TV,  all three said it gave them the chance to educate, share and highlight important views and opinions around their various disabilities. 


Source: ABC

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