A disabled ex-soldier has been selected as one of the housemates for the final series of the TV reality show Big Brother.
Immediate impressions of Steve Gill on blogs and websites were overwhelmingly positive, both from disabled and non-disabled people, and bookmakers quickly installed him as one of the favourites to win the competition.
Gill is no stranger to the media spotlight. Earlier this year, he took part in a transatlantic yacht race with a crew of fellow amputee ex-servicemen.
He also coaches wheelchair basketball and supports the British Limbless Ex Service Men’s Association (BLESMA), the national charity for serving and ex-service men and women who have lost limbs.
In a video on the BLESMA website, Gill describes how he lost an eye and his two legs in an explosion while serving with the army in Belfast in 1989.
A BLESMA spokeswoman said they thought Gill was “fantastic” and were hoping his appearance would help raise awareness of the charity’s work.
Channel 4 said Gill was married with eight children and that he chooses to wear shorts to show his prosthetic limbs. He said: “I purposely walk around looking the way I do. It’s better to be open about who you are.”
A fellow amputee noted on the Big Brother website that some people were already commenting on the fact that Gill did not have a paid job, despite his voluntary work.
Another viewer who posted on the site warned that comments about Gill’s employment status were “a taste of what’s to come in the press”, with a new government “softening us up for cuts”.
Gill’s entry into Channel 4’s Big Brother house comes less than a month after the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom condemned the use of offensive, disablist language by Big Brother presenter Davina McCall and footballer-turned-actor Vinnie Jones on a Big Brother offshoot.
10 June 2010