Saturday, 28 February 2009


"Understanding and caring for people who are different needs to be taught to parents as well as children" the Green Party Disability Spokesperson Alan Wheatley said this week.

He was responding to news that the BBC has received dozens of complaints from parents against the employment of BBC children's television presenter Cerrie Burnell who was born with one arm. She co-presents the Do and Discover slot and Bedtime Hour on the CBeebies channel of the BBC, and it has been reported that dozens of parents have complained that the presenter scares children. One parent said, "What is scary is the BBC's determination to show 'minorities' on CBeebies at every available opportunity."[1

Mr Wheatley, worked with under-5s in the early 1990s after experiencing disability discrimination at school and says, "Children learn a lot from their parents -- for good or ill. When I received training in childcare, some placements said, "Male students would require too much supervision" as justification for reneging on Equal Opportunities policies. Then came the Nursery Supervisor who prized "excellent male role models to small children" as an antidote to macho culture portrayed on-screen and wider society that leaves parenting to the women. "Some people even argued that a man with bushy hair and a beard would 'frighten the children'. Such statements reflect the parents' values more than reality," he argues.

"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?" 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. One-armed people 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?

"Outside inclusive education hours, Cerrie Burnell as an icon of disability equality in public service broadcasting can help broaden people's horizons and give inspiration to open-minded parents rather than nightmares to Bedtime Hour viewers."

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