Press release

Celebrities join forces with disability charity on role models campaign

Celebrities have joined forces with the government to help launch a campaign aiming to promote positive role models for disabled people.

Emmerdale star Kitty McGeever, alongside a number of celebrities in the world of entertainment and sport have joined forces with the government to help launch a campaign which aims to promote positive role models for disabled people.

Young people from Whizz-Kidz – and other disability groups – have chosen and filmed disabled role models who inspire their generation and are calling for even more to be part of the campaign. 50 YouTube videos have already been produced with a focus on overcoming barriers.

Latest stats show 81% of people thought the Paralympics had a positive impact on the way disabled people are perceived. Research also shows role models are one of the main ways of influencing perceptions towards disabled people.

British actress Kitty McGeever, who plays the fictional character Lizzie Lakely in Emmerdale, the first blind actress to be cast in a British soap opera, said:

I had been an actress for many years before becoming blind, and it was some time before I could get back into work. I did that with the support of the team at Emmerdale and through the government employment scheme – Access to Work.

Having a disability shouldn’t mean the end of doing the job you love - providing the right support means people’s talents won’t go to waste, and the Role Models campaign is a great way to show young people what is possible.

Esther McVey, Minister for Disabled People said:

The Paralympics truly captivated the hearts of the nation and have undoubtedly helped shift attitudes and perceptions towards disability.

And now young disabled people tell me they want to see more inspiring role models to show where disabled people have achieved their ambitions despite the odds being stacked against them.

That is why we are now working with young disabled people on these real life stories to help inspire the next generation.

Dave Clarke, Paralympics football team captain said:

The can do attitude of disabled athletes definitely had an impact of how the public perceive the abilities of disabled people. Whizz-Kidz are grasping the attitudinal bounce and carrying it forward with this role model campaign.

Simon Stevens, star of Channel 4’s “I’m Spazticus’ said:

I use comedy to challenge perceptions of disability. I’m Spazticus was broadcast during the Paralympic Games last year with the aim of helping change attitudes towards what disabled people can do.

Since 2005, a higher proportion of people are likely to think of disabled people as the same as everyone else.

On a recent consultation, the government received over 2,200 comments which related to changing attitudes and behaviours towards disabled people.

Whizz-Kidz Ambassador and Chair of its Kidz Board, George Fielding said:

Whizz-Kidz is excited to be part of a dynamic and passionate group of people, working together to have a positive and long-lasting impact on the lives of young disabled people. The project is about showing what disabled people can do – not what they can’t – which is very much Whizz-Kidz’s ambition too. It’s clear we are not short of role models, but we’d love to hear from even more – hopefully the campaign can serve as a platform to inspire others.

More information

Latest disability analysis can be found on the ODI website

People can view the videos on YouTube

If you have stories you would like to share, please visit www.facebook.com/#!/Rolemodelsinspire

Emmerdale star Kitty McGeever’s support worker is funding through the government’s specialist disability employment support scheme – Access to Work – which provides financial help towards the extra costs faced by disabled people at work, such as support workers, travel costs and specially adapted equipment. Anyone interested in applying for this support, can visit www.gov.uk/access-to-work/how-to-claim to find out details of our contact centres.

Whizz-Kidz is a national charity which provides disabled children and young people with vital mobility equipment, opportunities to meet and have fun, and training to help them gain skills and look forward to a bright future. Whizz-Kidz has changed the lives of nearly 16,000 disabled children since 1990 – often literally overnight. The charity estimates there are still over 70,000 children in the UK waiting for the right equipment to fit their young lives www.whizz-kidz.org.uk

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