This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit

Disability Arts Online

Getting there / 27 February 2009

I caught the end of a radio show the other day where the presenter was trying to generate some controversial response from his listeners about the young Disabled TV presenter, Cerrie Burnell. Apparently, the fact that she has only one hand was frightening some of her younger viewers.

"There's a time and place for showing kids all the 'differences' that people can have, but nine in the morning in front of two-year-olds is NOT the place!" ranted one parent on the CBeebies  message boards, while another explained how he’d stopped his daughter from watching the channel for fear the sight of Cerrie's arm would give her nightmares.

Anyway, having come in at the end of the programme I gathered that the listeners had responded in a positive way about Cerrie and that the radio presenter had not got the usual knee jerk reactions from Mrs. Angry from Penge or Mr. Outraged from Cleethorpes … you know the sort of thing.

I'd like to think that this reflects quite a sea change in the way that society is starting to view us crips, and that this is probably down to the fact that more of us are now involved in how we’re represented within society. Rather than being seen as a race apart, which is how those non-disabled disability professionals have portrayed us in order to maintain their status quo, I believe that we are now being seen more as an acceptable part of society.

Those narrow minded and ignorant parents who responded in the way that they have thankfully represent just a small percentage of the parents who are teaching their children just how different and diverse our society now is. Hopefully the children of the parents who left those comments will be influenced more by their teachers and grow up to realise this. 

However, that’s not to say that we’re still not being represented enough on television or on film. There are so many talented Disabled actors who simply aren't getting the chance due to there not being enough parts and roles being written for them, unless it’s as the villain! A lot of our society is still obsessed with the body perfect or the expectation that people can be fixed if they don’t appear normal.

So, still a way to go yet folks, but I'd like to think that we’re getting there.