"I will continue to appreciate stories that are well acted and well told and that take the daily struggles of disabled people to a much wider audience"

When I watched Stutterer an unbidden and unexpected knot of emotion rose in me. There was something earnest and familiar in Matthew Needham's (the BBC's Casualty and Sherlock) intense expressions that belied a thousand thoughts disabled people know only too well.

Matthew Needham plays Greenwood, a lonely typographer, who has an extreme speech impediment and equally extreme disparaging inner voice. Words form the fabric of his existence. When he's not crafting beautiful fonts at work he's crafting witty online conversations with a girl he's desperate to meet. Despite this longing he's terrified to interact with people outside of his immediate family. In order to escape this inner prison Greenwood must face his fears, learn to reach out and ultimately trust another.

Stutterer is up for Best Live Action Short at the Oscars this year. Amidst the usual Oscars controversy I saw a national paper ask whether in general an able bodied actor playing a disabled person should be considered as offensive and as damaging as a white actor blacking up or whether it was as benign as an actor adopting another accent. As someone that spent years in a wheelchair with a medical condition I have more insight than most on this. I feel we are in the embryonic stages of embracing biological diversity. This is evident in the fact we haven't even got a term for biological diversity that doesn't automatically point at what someone ostensibly cannot do (dis-abled). It's also evident in the fact the Oscars themselves defines inclusion as considering "gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation" but not disability, and does this despite one study finding 16% of best Actor Oscars are awarded for portrayals of disability by someone who doesn't even have the actual condition.

I did find myself wondering if a genuine stutterer could have played the role of Greenwood even though Matthew Needham's acting was brilliant. I wondered if the role could have be shared and if someone could have played Greenwood's eloquent inner voice and if a true stutterer could have played Greenwood's troubled outer self.

Ultimately though, considering how embryonic the discussions are about biological diversity I think the more valid questions are not who is telling the story but how is it being told. When I watched Stutterer I believed in it. I also believed that those that wrote the film, produced the film and acted in the film had a clear, compassionate understanding of the issues and wanted to tell a sensitive everyday story without saccharine or condescension. That in itself is refreshing.

Greenwood's fears are real. Prejudice and ostracisation abound and as Greenwood demonstrates, plasters are needed. Almost 2/3 of Britons admit to being uncomfortable even talking to someone with a disability and 50% of Britons think they actually don't know someone with a disability even though 20% of the population has some form of condition. That is both a credit to those managing their conditions well enough for others not to notice and perhaps a sad indictment of the fact that they need to. It was this notion that part of a disabled person is hidden and misunderstood that is so well captured in Stutterer. It's the constant disparity between Greenwood's personal inner truth and his desperate need to project a functioning outward appearance that added so much emotional realism to the story and made it so very touching.

Things are changing in regards to how disabled people are viewed. For now though I will continue to appreciate stories that are well acted and well told and that take the daily struggles of disabled people to a much wider audience.

Stutterer - Nominated for Best Live Action Short, 88th Academy Awards