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Inclusion needed in our society

PUBLISHED: 07:08 27 February 2009 | UPDATED: 22:38 05 July 2010

CERRIE Burnell is a bright ambitious professional working mother like any other.

She does her job well, works hard and is a delight to watch as presenter on children's channel CBeebies.

CERRIE Burnell is a bright ambitious professional working mother like any other.

She does her job well, works hard and is a delight to watch as presenter on children's channel CBeebies. When she's not on TV, she's working as a teaching assistant with special needs children or caring for her four-month-old baby.

But people are calling for her to be taken off our screens. They want her to lose her job because, they say, she is scaring children - because she was born with only one arm.

Since her on-screen debut, Cerrie has become the victim of an outpouring of bile for daring to be a TV presenter with a disability.

Growing up with one arm has not held her back or stopped her achieving on every level, educationally, at drama school, career-wise or as a mother.

Like millions of other women, she manages a baby, home and a successful career.

But because her job takes her into people's sitting rooms, presenting the successful Do and Discover slot and the Bedtime Hour on Cbeebies, she's ruffling the sensibilities of the ignorant and stupid.

Her disability might have never held her back but other people will - and will go hell for leather with their abuse to “lose her” from view.

Already a lengthy queue has formed - mostly anonymously, what else? - of posts on parenting websites and complaints to the BBC to end her career before it's started.

Pathetically, these adults hide behind their children's “fear”. It's not their prejudice, they say - nooooooo. Nothing personal, of course - it's the fact that she scares their children. Right.

But it's really them, of course, who are terrified of anything different.

One viewer stirring it up wrote: “Is it just me, or does anyone else think the new woman presenter on CBeebies may scare the kids because of her disability?”

He wouldn't let his daughter watch her in case she suffered nightmares.

But the poor little girl has to live with such a discriminative idiot. Would he demand a child be removed from his daughter's class if he or she had been born with one arm, or couldn't walk or had cerebral palsy?

Many of the posts on the website have been so vicious they have had to be removed.

The tiny-minded of Little Britain ganging together in a revolting attack on a hard-working woman who happens to have a disability doing a job she loves.

Why is her so-called “disability” the only thing these people see?

And why does disability and difference upset them so much?

Do they really want, like in centuries past, anyone with a physical difference to be locked away out of public sight to avoid offence?

They shout Cerrie's appointment is “PC” gone made and positive discrimination. She'd have never got the job if she were able-bodied, they say.

Nasty, small-minded and vindictive.

One wrote: “What is scary is the BBC's determination to show “minorities” on CBeebies at every available opportunity.” No, what is really scary is that people are happy to bully and demean people for the sole reason that they happened to be born different.

And these are parents - the very people who should be talking to their children about the very many differences between human beings, how we look, what we can do, and our capabilities.

Instead they're passing on their fears and prejudice to a new generation. Which is exactly why Cerrie and others with a range of disabilities should be on our screens.

And those who can't handle it or stir up hatred towards people with disabilities should face prosecution just as those who stir up racial hatred.

Familiarity is the only way forward to full inclusion and acceptance throughout society.

The more people we see with disabilities represented every where, the less bullying and nastiness women and men like Cerrie will have to endure from the stupid in our world.

MUCH has been spoken and written about dignity and how Jade Goody should be left to die with hers intact.

What does dignity mean? Quiet acceptance?

If Jade Goody wants to go railing and screaming against the cancer that is cutting her down in her prime, preventing her from watching her sons grow into young men, depriving those boys of a mother, so she should.

She should be angry, we should all be angry watching it happen to her and everyone else, she should want to make a noise against the unfairness of her disease, she should be shouting telling every other young woman to take advantage of every screening the NHS offers and more.

It's not fair, it's not right. It shouldn't be happening to her or any other young person with so much to live for so why should she sit and accept her fate without a noisy angry fight?

TIME was when cricket fans showed their support of their national team by a faint ripple of applause and murmurs of appreciation.

Today there's little between the five-bellied shaven headed football fans draped in the union flag travelling abroad and cricket followers when it comes to rowdiness.

A letter to a national paper this week from a family holidaying in Antigua at the same time as the recent Test match outlined the nightmare of sharing a hotel with England's Barmy Army, their foul language, rude brashness and general nuisance.

Photos showed the fans in front of their giant flags, in droopy shorts, two stone of bare flab hanging over their waistbands waving their beer cans. W C Grace would be turning in his grave.

JUST what us also-ran mothers don't want to hear.

Children's birthday parties are going all homespun in the credit crunch.

Organised parties at play centres, bowling alleys and church halls are so 1990s as parents cut back and throw parties at home with traditional games and home made cake.

Just the thought of crowd controlling 15 small hyped up boys in the confined space of a living room and trying to entice them into completing Pin the Tail on the Donkey safely brings on a panic attack.

And just because they're not spending money doesn't mean that Competitive Mother has been crunched too.

She'll be even worse, presenting her platters of uber healthy superfoods not an additive in sight, organising perfectly timed games with perfect prizes without a hair out of place in homes straight out of Homes and Gardens.

The rest of us mere mortal mothers will be gulping down blood pressure tablets with a bottle of red locked in the airing cupboard when pass the parcel erupts into a riot after too much fizzy drink and sugary sweets.

Then forking out for a cleaning company to steam clean the house.

Homespun hell.

ONE of the most disturbing trends of modern times was summed up by the defendant in a court case last week.

A woman, charged with causing death by dangerous driving, described her car as “effectively my office.”

She was accused to causing a head-on crash because she was talking on a hands-free mobile phone while driving which distracted her enough to cause a crash, killing a man.

Increasingly, journeys are used as work time with conference calls and important business discussions and deals made while drivers are at the wheel.

They're in charge of a lethal weapon and should be concentrating on their driving able to make split second decisions of life or death not cutting their latest deal.

Even hands free sets are a hazard and distraction. Cars are modes of transport, not a workplace and it's time the law ruled as such to protect the safety of those who know the difference between an office and a car.

IT'S come to something when the National Trust has to tell children to play outside and “get dirty.”

But it's right; children just don't get dirty - really muck-struck dirty - any more.

I blame the mothers. You hear them warning their children: “You better not mess up your clothes” telling them to keep away from grass, mud and water.

Children are better dressed than ever, dolled up to look like Mini Mes of their mums and dads in expensive sports or designer gear which they expect to stay pristine.

That's not childhood. Children don't have old play clothes anymore. The sort of hand-me-downs worn to play out in, go wild and get absolutely filthy. The half-mast trousers that could get torn and old jumpers with the elbows out that no one would worry about.

The irony is us parents are armed with the most effective washing solutions ever now with every type of stain remover yet we never really need them because children's clothes never see real dirt.

Unless they're like my sons and view mud as an irresistible force to roll in.

So the National Trust is doing what parents should and getting children off the sofa and into the woods, pond dipping, making compost heaps and exploring woodland in a programme of events encouraging children to get filthy.

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