Last week, the cast of the new series of Love Island was announced with much focus on this years’ line-up including the ‘first contestant with a disability’. Hugo Hammond, a PE teacher from Hampshire, was born with club foot – which causes the foot to twist downwards and inwards.
TV’s effort towards inclusion was celebrated by many, but also led to accusations of ‘tokenism’ since producers chose someone with a disability that isn’t as immediately visible as some others. Hugo has had numerous operations on his foot as a child, with the 24-year-old stating that people can ‘only really tell when I walk barefoot. I’ve got a really short Achilles… I walk slightly on my tip toes.’
Nevertheless, there has been mass intrigue in his inclusion. ‘Club foot Love Island’ is currently a breakout search term on Google, as is ‘Hugo Hammond’, ‘What is clubfoot’ and ‘Love Island 2021 disabled’.
What is club foot?
According to the NHS website, ‘club foot (also called talipes) is where a baby is born with a foot or feet that turn in and under. It happens because the Achilles tendon (the large tendon at the back of the ankle) is too short.
‘Club foot can affect one or both feet. It’s not painful for babies, but it can become painful and make it difficult to walk if it’s not treated. Club foot affects about one baby in every 1,000 born in the UK. Both feet are affected in about half of these babies. It’s more common in boys.’
But the thing is, Hugo isn’t the first Love Island contestant with a disability. Last night, Niall Aslam posted on TikTok to remind viewers that Hugo is simply the first with a physical disability. Niall appeared on Love Island in 2018, but left after seven days due to a stress-induced psychosis. The 24-year-old suffers from autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which is defined as ‘a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioural challenges.’
Posting a video on TikTok, Niall pointed out the media attention on Hugo being the supposed first contestant with a disability, before adding ‘but autism is a disability and I ended up hospitalised.’
‘I support Hammond, he is the first with a physical disability but can we stop covering me up lol,’ Niall’s caption read.
He makes an important point, and one we must take note of in a world where developmental disabilities and mental illnesses too are overlooked compared to physical ones. Now, Niall hopes to raise awareness about the realities of autism on his platforms, something he was never given the opportunity to do on Love Island.