Disability equality needs role models

24 February 2009

"Understanding and caring for people who are different needs to be taught to parents as well as children," the Green Party's disability spokesperson Alan Wheatley said today.

He was responding to news that the BBC had received dozens of complaints from parents about the employment of BBC children's television presenter Cerrie Burnell, who was born with one arm.

Cerrie Burrell co-presents the Do and Discover slot and Bedtime Hour on the CBeebies channel of the BBC. It has been reported that dozens of parents have complained that the presenter scares children. One parent reportedly said, "What is scary is the BBC's determination to show 'minorities' on CBeebies at every available opportunity." (1)

The Greens' Alan Wheatley commented today, "What would these parents who believe that 'minorities' should be neither seen or heard on children's television have them do? Is it not time for the parents to grow up to a global world and the social model of disability?"

Mr Wheatley explained that the social model of disability, integral to Green Party policy, points to the physical and social barriers that exclude people with impairments from fully participating in society. "Disabled role models on television can help to broaden the world-view of the parents as well as the children in the spirit of life-long learning in a very diverse society. Clearly one-armed people like Cerrie Burrell can achieve a lot, though not necessarily in the 'standard' way. Do some parents with both arms intact feel threatened by the prospect of a physically disabled person's success?"

He concluded: "Outside inclusive education hours, Cerrie Burnell might be seen as an icon of disability equality in public service broadcasting. She is a disabled person who has succeeded in the highly-competitive world of broadcasting, and that makes her an important role model."


1. See  http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23649838-details/Parents+complain+that+disabled+TV+presenter+is+%27scaring+children%27/article.do
and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1152466/One-armed-presenter-scaring-children-parents-tell-BBC.html.

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