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channel4_MAINoCHANNEL 4 has launched a special Year of Disability in 2016 package to increase on and off-screen representation of disabled people.

Plans include doubling the number of disabled people appearing in 20 of the station’s biggest shows – with disabled contributors contributing to hit programmes such as Gogglebox, The Island, Grand Designs, Hollyoaks, and First Dates.

The company is also investing £300,000 in new talent initiatives, with an off-screen commitment to progress the careers of 20 disabled people already working in the industry in Channel 4’s 20 biggest suppliers.

Half of all the broadcaster’s apprenticeships and 30% of all its work experience placements will also be ringfenced for disabled people.

The focus on disability is in addition to the ongoing 30 initiatives outlined in Channel 4’s 360° Diversity Charter.

Channel 4 chief executive David Abraham said: “I hope that we can extend the impact of this Paralympic year right across our schedule and help do something lasting to increase representation of disabled people on, and off-screen.”

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey MP said: “The lack of diversity on and behind our screens is truly shocking. I am pleased the industry is at last beginning to address this, and it’s good that Channel 4 is keeping this issue prominently on the agenda.

“But this is only the beginning. No one can assume the job is done or even half done. We have a long way to go and I will continue to engage with broadcasters on this issue.”

Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson MP added: “Channel 4 programming has set the standard for disabled representation both on and off screen.

“By partnering with charities to raise awareness of specific issues and presenting believable disabled characters they have made a real difference.

“However, there is still a long way to go if we want television to truly reflect the situation of disabled people in Britain today.”