George Webster show us why we all need to see ourselves represented in the media.
|The following article first appeared in iNews|
“It’s my friend George! He’s the same as meeee!” my daughter Natty squealed, as we tuned in specially to watch CBeebie’s newest presenter teach us how to blend a smoothie.
Natty’s college-aged big sister Mia perched between us on the edge of the sofa, each of us grinning with the sort of pride you only feel when a family member appears on your screen.
Like any professional kids’ TV show presenter, 20-year-old George has all the right characteristics to get BBC pre-schoolers and those with special needs glued to their screens; effervescence, bubbly charm, a quick wit and a trendy vibe that his viewers aspire to emulate.
But George Webster has something special on top of all that. Just like my daughter, he has an extra chromosome. George has been somewhat of a role model for our family over the years, notably for his viral educational video busting common myths surrounding Down’s syndrome. For us, watching his success was personal. This wasn’t just family viewing. George is like family to us.
Like George, Natty adores the limelight, acting and dancing her way into the hearts of all who meet her as well as working as an ambassador for charity Mencap.
She too was a trailblazer, being one of the UK’s first models with a disability to feature in a national Back to School clothing campaign.
|Natty appeared in the Sainsbury's Back to School campaign|
George has been chosen for his personality and unique abilities. But for children like Natty, welcoming him virtually into our living rooms has an important message. We all need to see ourselves represented in the media. It’s important for our self-worth and confidence. To know on a subconscious level that our voices count. That we count. That gone are the days when people with a learning disability were shut away and forgotten about, denied equitable education and healthcare.
The learning disability family is close and has been united in its excitement over George’s new role. Mum, campaigner and comedian Sally Phillips tweeted “Oh CBeebies I could not love you more. This means so much to us and isn’t George amazing!”
One new Mum described how George had dispelled her fears, “This is what I needed to see. Thank you George, you have given me hope for my little boy.”
Paula McGowan OBE noted “George is changing culture, challenging bias and prejudice. This is just the beginning…”
I for one have never seen anyone with a learning disability presenting a television show before. And in this day and age, where we strive for equality and diversity in all its wonder, I am constantly amazed that this is the case. Our reality programmes, competitions, news articles so often neglect to include the viewpoint of anyone from that community.
As George puts it so eloquently, “People with Down’s syndrome deserve to be treated equally and with respect.” They are more alike other young people than they are different. Their extra chromosomes are an important part of who they are, but they do not define them or predict their paths through life. They are just one aspect of who they are.
Thank you, George. With each episode you present, you will show us that there are no limits on what can be achieved and that each of us is a success in whichever way we are capable.
So, as I round off this piece, listening to Natty singing Mama Mia songs at the top of her lungs in the next room, I hope that one day in the not too distant future there will come a time when a presenter with a learning disability becomes a non-newsworthy norm.