A love reality show for people with disabilities

double cast, the island of love, 5 boys for me… The face of Quebec love reality shows is about to change. The winter of 2023 will mark the arrival of a disability-only dating show, has learned The press.

Posted at 8:00 am

Marc Andre Lemieux

Marc Andre Lemieux
The press

title what if it was youthis 10 part series hosted by Varda Étienne and produced by Pixcom (Audrey came back, warnings) is offered on AMI-tv. The broadcaster for blind, mobility-impaired or hard-of-hearing people wants to go on the air in February.

Every half hour, a single person with a disability meets three clients who may or may not have a disability. At the end of the head-to-head race, the person must choose their favorite.

At Pixcom we describe what if it was you as a “very inclusive” dating show, developed in cooperation with AMI-télé. Participants include single people with intellectual disabilities, deafness or autism spectrum disorder and other wheelchair users due to accident or illness.


Candidate Kevin Ouellet during the first days of filming of the show what if it was you

“We tried to have diversity from all angles. We also tried to have sexual diversity,” says director Estelle Bouchard (The nerds, It’s not surprising).

“It’s still different from the casting. We’re far from it the island of love and D’OD says François-Étienne Parent, Director of Francophone Development at Pixcom.

Recruitment easier than expected

Candidate recruitment began in the spring. According to François-Étienne Parent, this crucial step in the preparation of a love reality show went smoothly.

The answer is good because it’s not a clientele where the dating shows.

François-Étienne Parent, Director of Francophone Development at Pixcom

“People tell us it’s difficult to meet,” continues producer Amélie Dionne-Martel. They’re fed up with apps and all that. That’s why they sign up for dating shows in large numbers. »

Only one thing made the pre-production of the new television meeting difficult: the COVID-19 pandemic. “People with disabilities can sometimes have a slightly more fragile health,” explains Amélie Dionne-Martel. We didn’t want to take any chances: we had to find backup recruiters in case someone showed symptoms on the day of shooting. »

The choice of Varda Étienne for the animation has “naturally” prevailed.


Varda Etienne

“We didn’t have anyone else in mind,” says Amélie Dionne-Martel. It was the only one. We like his open but lovable side. She puts some teeth into her comments. we needed it »

A welcome initiative

The Regroupement des activities pour l’inclusion au Québec (RAPLIQ) welcomes the launch of the program what if it was you. Reached by phone, the organization’s co-founder, outgoing president and spokesperson, Linda Gauthier, says she welcomes the project, not only because it increases the visibility of people with disabilities on the small screen, but also because able-bodied people can be found underneath it the trios of suitors.

If only people with disabilities existed, the concept would have been ghettoized. Because I am disabled but my husband is not. And I know many other couples like us.

Linda Gauthier, from RAPLIQ

This was an important aspect for the team behind the show.

“Other than that, it seems like people with disabilities can just hang out,” says director Estelle Bouchard. This is far from what we want to show. »

Although she frowns every time she hears the term “reality TV,” RAPLIQ’s Linda Gauthier ponders what if it was you as “progress”. “We too have love needs, both emotional and physical. It would be nice if we could see it. »

Further examples

what if it was you isn’t the only love reality show involving so-called “other” people. Netflix has been broadcasting since 2020 love in the spectrum (in French, Stories about love and autism), an Australian production that sensitively explores the world of encounters between young adults with autism.

Two seasons are currently offered. For several months, the platform has also been offering the aptly named American adaptation Love on the US Spectrum.

Might also mention The Undateda UK reality show that has been airing on Channel 4 since 2012, in which we show how people struggling with different types of disorders (trisomy, learning disabilities, etc.) try to find love.

Is a show like what if it was you ? could have seen the light of day earlier in Quebec? Estelle Bouchard believes so. However, the stars were set for such a confident start in 2022.

“We’ve talked a lot about inclusion, about cultural diversity, sexual diversity in recent years,” emphasizes the director. I think we’ve arrived [représenter] body diversity. »

“I dare to hope that all programs open up to it,” adds Amélie Dionne-Martel.

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