Strictly Come Dancing: Disabled dancer hits back at wheelchair user contestant reports

Disability campaigners have highlighted the shocking prejudice from some Strictly fans on social media.

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Strictly Come Dancing bosses reportedly hope to feature a wheelchair user in the next series. (BBC)

Disability rights campaigners have had mixed reaction to rumours Strictly Come Dancing hopes to feature a wheelchair user in the next series.

The Mail on Sunday reported that the producers of the BBC dance show are in talks to feature a wheelchair user as a contestant this year, following the success of inclusive casting in recent series.

The news sparked mixed reaction on social media and several disability rights campaigners have spoken out to highlight the shocking discriminatory comments made by some about the possibility of watching a wheelchair dancer.

Read more: Rose Ayling-Ellis 'heckled' during stage performance

Ballerina Kate Stanforth tweeted: "It’s been announced that @bbcstrictly are going to have a wheelchair user this year. I’ve just sat, honestly close to tears, as I’ve scrolled through the ableist comments about how wheelchair users are not welcome on the programme but also in general society."

Journalist and activist Dr Frances Ryan commented: "It’s a minor point but the number of people saying 'the lifts are going to be hard' makes me worry about Britain’s education system. These people genuinely think wheelchair users are 'bound' to the chair. Pretty sure the pro will lift the celeb, not them and their b****y wheels."

And disability rights campaigner Rachel Charlton-Dailey said: "This is why I won’t believe the 'announcement' til I see it. Because the public reacts this way when it’s just mentioned that strictly are LOOKING to cast a wheelchair using celeb. Absolutely vile. Disabled people don’t need to prove our worth to you."

But other reacted positively to the news.

British elite wheelchair athlete David Weir poses for the media in front of Tower Bridge in London, Friday, April 19, 2013. The London Marathon will go ahead on Sunday despite security fears in the wake of the bomb blasts in the Boston race that killed at least three runners and injured many more. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Wheelchair athlete David Weir is pleased to think Strictly might feature a wheelchair dancer. (AP)

Paralympic wheelchair athlete David Weir, 43, told the Mail: "It's a great thing for inclusion and it will be nice to see someone getting a platform and profile on a massive show like Strictly. It will certainly make me watch it. Ellie Simmonds was great last year and it was so good to see her doing a show like that.

"I don't think people in wheelchairs are appreciated enough. I feel like we are a forgotten entity so hopefully this will help. It should be celebrated."

The BBC have declined to comment on the rumours.

It would not be the first time wheelchair dancing had been featured on Strictly.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 13: Kristina Rihanoff attends the National Television Awards 2022 at The OVO Arena Wembley on October 13, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
Kristina Rihanoff was a choreographer on BBC show Dancing On Wheels in 2010. (Getty Images)

In 2018, the hit series featured a routine to David Bowie's Life On Mars in which the show's professional dancers teamed up with wheelchair dancers from the inclusive Candoco Dance Company.

Former Strictly pros James and Ola Jordan, Brian Fortuna and Kristina Rihanoff all took part in a series called Dancing On Wheels on BBC Three in 2010, along with disabled presenter Ade Adepitan.

The show saw celebrity contestants trained by wheelchair dancers and celebrity contestants included M People singer Heather Small, Olympic swimmer Mark Foster and the late TV presenter Caroline Flack, who won the show.

Competitors at the Grand Prix International Wheelchair Dancesport Competition 2013, Wythenshawe Forum, Manchester
Competitors at the Grand Prix International Wheelchair Dancesport Competition in 2013. (PA)

Last year paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds took part in the show. She is 4ft tall as she has dwarfism and was partnered with professional dancer Nikita Kuzman, who is 5ft 11in.

She revealed she had been trolled on social media over her participation in the show but made it to week seven, achieving a highest score of 33 out of 40.

Ellie Simmonds received 26 for her Cha-Cha-Cha with professional partner Nikita Kuzmin. (BBC)
Ellie Simmonds received 26 for her Cha-Cha-Cha with professional partner Nikita Kuzmin. (BBC)

In 2021 EastEnders star Rose Ayling-Ellis won the show after making history as the first deaf contestant on the show, in which she counted to keep time to the music.

As a result a BSL interpreter was added to the Strictly Live Tour in 2022.

Read more: Strictly's Ellie Simmonds says she's already been trolled over joining dance contest

She won a TV Bafta for her Couple's Choice dance with partner Giovanni Pernice, which invited viewers into her world as a deaf dancer with the silent sequence in their routine to Symphony by Clean Bandit featuring Zara Larsson.

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