Broadcaster unveils slate of shows around disability in effort to raise representation
Mon 2 Dec 2019 19.00 EST
Last modified on Mon 2 Dec 2019 19.48 EST
The BBC has pledged to include more disabled entertainers and actors on its mainstream panel shows, documentaries and dramas in an attempt to improve the representation of people with disabilities on screen.
The broadcaster is asking programme makers to provide “authentic and distinctive disabled representation on-screen” in programmes that are not specifically about disability such as Who Do You Think You Are?, Eat Well For Less?, and high-profile dramas such as His Dark Materials. There will also be a new disabled actor in Silent Witness.
Disabled people trying to break into the TV industry will also be offered the chance to apply for paid training contracts on more than a dozen of the BBC’s leading programmes as part of an initiative called BBC Elevate.
Disabled people struggling to gain experience in the competitive media industry will be offered the chance to apply for contracts offering paid placements on BBC shows including EastEnders, Line of Duty, The One Show, Countryfile, Pointless and Call the Midwife.
The BBC also announced a slate of programmes involving disability. Being Frank will feature the broadcaster’s security correspondent Frank Gardner, who will reflect on how his life changed when he was paralysed aged 42 after being shot by an al-Qaida gunman in Saudi Arabia.
Alex Brooker, the Last Leg host, will present a documentary called Disability and Me where he will “confront the true nature of his disability for the first time and attempt to unpack his disabled identity”.
BBC One has also commissioned a one-off 90-minute drama called But When We Dance about a couple with Parkinson’s, written by the Vicar of Dibley co-writer Paul Mayhew-Archer, who himself has the degenerative condition.
The announcements were made as part of International Day of People with Disabilities, as all of the UK’s major broadcasters come together at an event in Salford co-hosted by the BBC and ITV to share best practice on how to improve representation of disabled people on and off-screen.
The BBC has committed to increasing the number of disabled people in its workforce from 8% in 2016 to 12% in 2020. In an effort to improve conditions for disabled workers, disabled staff will be able to create a central record of their disability for BBC managers to access and understand their specific needs. This will enable disabled staff to move between jobs without having to go through the potentially awkward experience of explaining their needs all over again.