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The BBC has appointed its first disability ambassador and set up a specialist disability team in a bid to strengthen representation on- and off-screen.

Cerrie Burnell, a children’s author and former CBeebies presenter who recently fronted BBC2 doc Silenced: the Hidden Story of Disabled Britain, will spend the next year working with commissioning and production teams to champion authentic portrayals of disability.

The team also includes Kay Ashton, who leaves her role as project co-ordinator for the BBC’ disabled staff network BBC Ability to become the organisation’s creative diversity disability lead.

Meanwhile, Nichola Garde, a lecturer in disability and communication at Manchester University, becomes project manager of BBC Elevate, an initiative that focuses on representation in production roles, placing candidates on shows such as Would I Lie To You?, Ready Steady Cook and The One Show.

The specialist disability team will report to BBC head of creative diversity Miranda Wayland and will be part of June Sarpong’s creative diversity unit. They will also work closely with diversity & inclusion disability lead Allan MacKillip.

The appointments are part of the BBC’s strategy to hit its 50:20:12 diversity target by 2023. This commits the BBC’s workforce to comprise 50% women, at least 20% BAME staff and 12% disabled people.

Last week, the Creative Diversity Network warned that it could take seven years for broadcasters to hit their 2021 off-screen disability targets.

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