Trisha Goddard, Tanni Grey-Thompson and Blaine Harrison are among the celebrities who participate in a new series of films discussing what effect their disability has on their lives.
In relay style, they interview each other for Ouch!, the BBC's dedicated disability website. Online for eight years, Ouch! has a strong track record in getting disabled people talking, showcasing gritty humor and revealing fascinating untold stories.
The series, called Dis Connected, brings seven noteworthy people together who share their personal experiences of disability with humor and honesty.
Senior producer Damon Rose says: "From chat show host to activist, the series has a diverse cross-section of interesting people who have all achieved a lot whilst also dealing with those extra life challenges. On watching all the footage back we were captivated by how some of our interviewees embrace disability as an identity more than others, yet all find common ground. Underneath it all, we seem to accidentally be asking, 'What exactly is this thing called disability' We hope it gives viewers lots to think about.
"I particularly love Tanni Grey Thompson's story about the first accessible loo in Cardiff and what a surprisingly life-changing moment that was for her. Paralympian or not, if you don't have an available toilet, you can't easily go out socializing with your mates."
Dis Connected kicks off with an interview between chat show host Trisha Goddard and CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell. Trisha talks about how she was initially angry that the Ouch! considered her to be disabled when she received an email inviting her to be part of this series. It was her husband, chief of a large mental health charity, who confirmed she fell under the protection of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), having suffered from breast cancer and depression.
Trisha says: "Mental health is a hidden illness," and discusses how she would like to take a more proactive approach to making people aware of it. "I know I needed more support coming back from a breakdown than I did having breast cancer. People run a mile when you mention it. They wouldn't maintain eye contact with me, both my parents worked as psychiatric nurses and my illness was never brought up. According to them it didn't happen! I don't think they could deal with it."
Cerrie has faced barriers en route to her TV career: "It wasn't until I got to drama school that I realized I was disabled". She was born without a right hand. Last year, nine viewers complained to the BBC that she was scaring children watching her on the CBeebies channel.
Cerrie discusses the surprising prejudice she experienced, and notes: "Now that I am in the public eye, I am going to have to step it up."
Other celebrities include presenter Gail Porter, who has had mental health problems and alopecia; John Horan, a disability discrimination lawyer who suffered a stroke 10 years ago; and Blaine Harrison, the front-man of Top 10 band the Mystery Jets, who was diagnosed with spina bifida at birth.
The series will be broadcast on the BBC Ouch! website from 28 June 2010, with a new interview being added every Monday for seven weeks.
The series starts with talk show host Trisha Goddard and ends with campaigner Baroness Jane Campbell.
The eight contributors, in order, are:
Trisha Goddard, chat show host who has a daily program on Five
Cerrie Burnell, CBeebies continuity presenter
Cara Readle, young actress with cerebral palsy who appeared in Tracy Beaker and Zig Zag Love
Gail Porter, TV presenter
Blaine Harrison, lead singer of The Mystery Jets
John Horan, barrister specializing in disability discrimination cases since having a stroke
Tanni Grey-Thompson, former paralympian and broadcaster, recently made a baroness and so now sits in the House of Lords
Baroness Jane Campbell, life-long disability activist
The films were directed by Kate Ansell, a disabled TV producer and writer.
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