Last week the BBC announced its intention to make significant improvements to the way that disabled people are represented on TV. 

It intends to quadruple the number of disabled people on TV by 2017, appoint a pan-BBC disability executive and open up more opportunities for disabled people to work at the BBC.

Announcing the new measures, BBC Director-General Tony Hall said, “It is vital we reflect the public we serve – both on and off air. While the BBC has some good schemes in place, we must and can do significantly more. That’s why we want to quadruple on-screen representation and open up many more opportunities for disabled people to work at the BBC.”

We’re delighted that the BBC is doing more to reflect the numbers of disabled people in the UK on screen.  As Vicky, one of our Campaigns Panel members said in last year’s ‘Superhumans or Scroungers’ report, “I think [disabled people] need to have more of a chance to do different things on telly so that people watching get more of an understanding.”  By showing disabled people as just that – people, like anyone else – perceptions can be changed and barriers broken down.

A recent Government survey showed that 68% of people questioned felt that public attitudes towards disabled people had improved since the Paralympic Games.  Paddy-Joe, another member of the Panel told us that his favourite TV show included someone with a disability.  For him, the best bit about it was that “even though the disabled person is not the main character, it is still good.  Even though he is disabled, this is not a big deal on the show.”  As simple as it sounds, just including disabled people on TV and in the media can make a huge difference to people’s perceptions of disability.

We think it’s great that the BBC are taking steps to make sure that disabled people are better represented on TV, and this week is the perfect opportunity to make sure that they keep that promise.  This year’s Commonwealth Games will see the biggest ever number of Para-Sports medals in its history, with new Para events such as track cycling being included for the first time.  As ever, the BBC’s coverage of the Games will be extensive, giving plenty of opportunities to highlight the achievements of disabled and non-disabled athletes from around the world.

Rachel Bowen, Campaigns Officer.