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Disability Bitch vs TV viewers

25th February 2009

Big news, readers: this week a disabled person was seen in public doing an actual job that she gets paid to do. Yes, Cerrie Burnell appeared on the CBeebies channel for pre-school children. Not being a pre-school child I've never seen her presenting work, but you can see her profile here and even see her singing a cheery song about sunset. How lovely ... except it's not.

You see, this week I HATE TELEVISION VIEWERS, for reasons which will become clear very shortly.
Cerrie Burnell
Eagle-eyed readers may have notice that Cerrie is lacking the lower part of one arm. You would've thought that this was cause for celebration. After all, we read so much about how disabled people are benefit scrounging scum costing the taxpayers loads of money. It is surely refreshing to find at least one of us in gainful employment?

Strange, then, that the headline in this week's Daily Mail was 'One armed presenter is scaring children, say parents'. Really? I mean, children run screaming from me, of course they do, I'm Disability Bitch, but surely they can't be scared of the gorgeous Cerrie, who has a similar impairment to Britain's Missing Top Model winner Kelly Knox? Kelly, I seem to remember, was extremely popular with the British public and everyone thought she was beautiful. How can reaction to Cerrie be so different?
Cerrie on the CBeebies set
I had my doubts about this 'story' from the off. For a start, Cerrie very clearly has more than one arm. She is not a 'one-armed' presenter. She has two upper body limbs. One of them is non-standard. That's all. You can call me pedantic if you like, but reading beyond the headline, you will discover that a whole nine parents have made formal complaints to the BBC about Cerrie's very visible disability. Nine. Out of hundreds of thousands of regular viewers. The subsequent media coverage has been immense.

This is hardly a national outcry. This is not an army of parents refusing to allow their children to watch CBeebies because there's a lady with a funny arm on it. It's nine people. Nine very odd people, no doubt. Sure, there've been a few additional comments on internet forums, but people write all sorts of prejudiced guff on the internet, as you can see by looking at the comments section on any national newspaper site. For instance,

Check out the comments underneath this article about an episode of BBC One soap EastEnders which this week featured an all-black cast for the first time. There's some prejudiced nonsense there, but I don't see it making national headlines.

Yet somehow, we seem to be having a 'debate' about a disabled person's presence on a children's channel. The topic has been discussed on Radio 2, Radio 5, in the national media, online. I'm not even sure what the debate is. Let me clear this up once and for all: pre-school children ARE NOT scared of disabled people. If they were, doctors would've been flooded with emergency call outs every time Cerrie appeared on screen, disabled people would live under curfew to avoid upsetting the young'uns when out in public, adverts for disability charities would only feature in top shelf magazines. It doesn't happen. There's nothing to debate. Nothing. That's n o t h i n g.
Fiona Bruce on the set of the 10 O'Clock News
To make matters worse, this isn't the only such disability over-reaction in the last 7 days. You may've heard that the BBC recently asked its news presenters to read out phone numbers and URLs on News programmes for the benefit of blind and partially sighted viewers who can't read on screen captions.

Good. But the email leaked to the press and there followed allegations of extreme 'political correctness' to the extent that the BBC Head of News was forced to defend his actions.

To be honest, I was somewhat surprised that fully sighted viewers cared at all. I'd like someone to explain to me what difference it makes to the quality of the programme if a news anchor reads a phone number out. I appreciate that if the News at Ten featured nothing more than Fiona Bruce reciting the telephone directory things would get quite dull quite quickly but all they're suggesting is that she reads a few digits out occasionally. It's not a revolution. The BBC isn't going to start making everyone communicate with the viewing audience in Braille. It's a small adjustment which will make a massive difference to a significant proportion of viewers and no one else will even notice. Get over it.

Honestly, readers, I'm beyond depressed. I open my newspapers expecting to read actual news, y'know, about the recession and politics and bushfires. I do not expect to read stereotypical rubbish about disabled people masquerading somehow as events of national importance. I can't even be bothered to make a joke about it. I'm going to watch my new favourite channel, CBeebies. Please come and get me when something worthwhile happens.

Millswatch

After weeks of silence, she's BACK! Heather Mills is jet-setting around New York giving interviews on Veganism (for a change) and - shockingly! - had a bit of a bad hair day while she was there. Now that's top quality journalism.

Facebook

Luckily, pre-school children aren't allowed on Facebook, so feel free to become my friend and flaunt your impairments here I want to build my friends up to 1200 in the next few weeks. Expect heated day-to-day debate on whether Johnny Ball is scarier than Cerrie Burnell. Yes, in my opinion. And who knows, if I can be bothered I may even do the famous '25 things you never knew about me' viral questionnaire that's doing the rounds over there. Good suggestion on my wall from Rob Williams. Watch this space.

Comments

  • 1. At 1:10pm on 27 Feb 2009, puretartan wrote:

    i am glad the bbc have given cerrie the position on tv as it shows children of a young age who watch cbeebies that people are different but that doesnt mean they cant do things that others can, my nephew has the same disability has cerrie and because of this he can now see that he is not alone and different from everyone. well done cerrie i have 4 children from ages 1 to 9 and they all watch and only my 9 year old has noticed and she was exited that "the lady on tv was the same as her cousin !!!" the people who have made compliants in my book are themselves scared of difference and are hiding behind their childrens feelings, keep up the good work cerrie my kids are all still watching cbeebies.

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  • 2. At 8:42pm on 27 Feb 2009, bluehook wrote:

    I have the same length of right arm as Cerrie, it's like looking in a mirror - except that she's young and attractive (minor detail). No children have ever run away screaming from me, most are curious, interested and open-minded, but very often the parents won't let them ask questions, and haul them away open mouthed. Cerrie has my full support and I'm absolutely delighted to see her doing such a visible job, about time too.

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  • 3. At 2:47pm on 28 Feb 2009, quietchazzer wrote:

    Cerrie Burnell has my total support. Who cares if she's missing part of an arm? The complainants are narrow-minded idiots who I doubt have their children's best interests at heart. They're more interested in perpetuating their own intolerances and prejudices. I have no recognised disability but was led here after being incensed by some of the media's attitude to difference. Cerrie, you go, girl!

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  • 4. At 7:16pm on 28 Feb 2009, dolphin_1992 wrote:

    I find these complaints towards Cerrie very offending. I, myself have a disability and just from reading some of the complaints that parents have written has made me feel very angry towards them. Children are NOT scared of people with disabilities. Yes, they get curious but all they do is ask questions which is fine. I think that Cerrie is a very pretty lady who has my full support. I think that it's good to have Cerrie presenting the CBeebies channel because it shows children that everyone is different. I have never had any child be scared of me because of my disability so what parents are saying is a load of rubbish. It's almost like them saying that people with some kind of disability should not be allowed to go out to work, or be allowed to go out in public altogether. How about if it was a soldier who has just lost his arm in some kind of battle, does this mean he shouldn't be allowed to go out and work. These parents should be sent off on a course and re-educated!!! i think Cerrie is very brave for working on television, that is one thing I could never face doing. My heart goes out for her. Cerrie you rock!!!!!

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  • 5. At 7:19pm on 28 Feb 2009, dolphin_1992 wrote:

    I find these complaints towards Cerrie very offending. I, myself have a disability and just from reading some of the complaints that parents have written has made me feel very angry towards them. Children are NOT scared of people with disabilities. Yes, they get curious but all they do is ask questions which is fine. I think that Cerrie is a very pretty lady who has my full support. I think that it's good to have Cerrie presenting the CBeebies channel because it shows children that everyone is different. I have never had any child be scared of me because of my disability so what parents are saying is a load of rubbish. It's almost like them saying that people with some kind of disability should not be allowed to go out to work, or be allowed to go out in public altogether. How about if it was a soldier who has just lost his arm in some kind of battle, does this mean he shouldn't be allowed to go out and work. These parents should be sent off on a course and re-educated!!! Or even better, they should be made to do community service with people with disabilities. I think Cerrie is very brave for working on television, that is one thing I could never face doing. My heart goes out for her. Cerrie you rock!!!!!

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  • 6. At 7:21pm on 28 Feb 2009, dolphin_1992 wrote:

    or even better, these parents should be sent to do community service with people who have disabilities.

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  • 7. At 7:22pm on 28 Feb 2009, dolphin_1992 wrote:

    Or even better, thee parents should be made to do community service with people who have disabilities.....

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  • 8. At 7:23pm on 28 Feb 2009, dolphin_1992 wrote:

    Or even better, they should be made to do community service with people who have a disability!!!!

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  • 9. At 7:05pm on 01 Mar 2009, angrytadpole wrote:

    Oh, come on. it was the Daily Mail, what do you expect?

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  • 10. At 7:07pm on 01 Mar 2009, angrytadpole wrote:

    A black US president has become possible - wehat are the chances of a disabled one?

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