Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Political correctness and disabled people

Toilet sign at Lakes Alive event
THE Paralympics has transformed the way many people see disabilities – for the better.
The games have proved both  emotional and inspirational.
However, in this age of political correctness there’s still confusion and nervousness about what terms to use when referring to disabled people. 
Before the games, The British Paralympic Association published guidance for journalists.
A spokesman said: “We feel that educating the general public about Paralympic athletes and the Paralympic Games is an integral part of our messaging around 2012 and we hope the media will help us in this challenging task.
“Paralympics GB’s success in 2012 will be measured not just in gold medals and our final position on the medal table, but also be the effect that the Paralympic Games has on the general public and by the shift in perceptions of disability sport and disability that we can, and must, affect.”
Amen to that. But can ‘correct’ language be imposed on society? And it has to be said some of their guidance is disputed by the very people they are trying to support.
But how would you score in a political correctness disability quiz? Which of these terms is OK to use and which should be avoided?
1.  Paralympian Sophie Warner suffers from cerebral palsy.
2. Dave is disabled but his brother, Pete, is able-bodied.
3. Steve is a wheelchair user.
4. John is a paraplegic
5. The disabled, the blind...
6. Jane is a disabled athlete.

1. Incorrect; The guidance says “Make sure that some words and phrases are totally avoided. In particular ‘suffers from’, ‘sufferer’, ‘victim of’ and ‘normal’/’abnormal’ are still commonly used when they should not be.
2. Incorrect. It’s fine to say disabled person (not ‘person with a disability) but ‘able-bodied’ is incorrect. The guidance suggests using non-disabled person instead.
3. Correct. Wheelchair-bound  or ‘confined to a wheelchair’ should be avoided.
4. Incorrect. A person with a spinal cord injury should be described as a person ‘with paraplegia’.
5. Incorrect. The guidance says grouping disabled people by their disability encourages stereotyping.
6. Correct. But the guidance points out it is often unnecessary to mention someone’s disability.
 To download the guidance in full, visit