What is Disability?

Together! 2012 ConsultancyThere are a number of ways of thinking about Disability and Disabled people, from two very different perspectives. These ways of thinking apply regardless of whether people have long-term health conditions, learning difficulties, mobility or sensory impairments, mental health difficulties, or are neuro-diverse or otherwise regarded as impaired. People are used to thinking in the Traditional Way about ‘People with Disabilities’, and this creates ‘Unconscious Bias’. All of the UK’s current policies and legislation, including the Equality Act 2010 and the Care Act 2014, are based on the Contemporary Way of thinking about ‘Disabled People’. This makes it vitally important to understand both perspectives.

This training material is regularly updated. © Dr Ju Gosling FRSA / Robin Surgeoner MBE / Together! 2012 CIC. Not to be reproduced without permission. (Links are permitted.)

The Traditional Way of thinking about ‘People with Disabilities’

Using the Traditional Way of thinking about Disability, People with Disabilities can only be enabled to participate fully in society by medical professionals and scientists treating and curing Multiple Sclerosis / Depression / Autism / Di George Syndrome / Cerebral Palsy / Paraplegia / ADHD / Hearing Loss / Asperger’s / Spinal Bifida / Retinitis Pigmentosa / Cystic Fibrosis / Anxiety / Down Syndrome / Schizophrenia / Muscular Dystrophy / Dyslexia / Diabetes / Arthritis / Bi-Polar / Amputee / Speech Impairment / Sickle Cell / M.E. / etc etc etc. Disability is the problem of the individual person with disabilities. To understand them, we primarily need to understand their medical condition.

The Contemporary Way of thinking about ‘Disabled People’

Using the Contemporary Way of thinking about Disability, Disabled people can be enabled by all of us to participate fully in society through providing a Wheelchair Ramp / Easy Words & Pictures / BSL Interpretation / Palantype / Personal Assistance / Audio-Description / Quiet Space / Lift Access / Amplification / Large Print / Good lighting / Parking / etc etc etc. Society is the problem, not the individual’s impairments. The Contemporary Way of thinking has been developed by Disabled People themselves from the 1980s onwards.

The Traditional Way of thinking about ‘People with Disabilities’

The Medical Model of Disability

“It’s inevitable that people with disabilities will face problems, because of their medical condition.”

“Doctors need to find a cure. There’s nothing we can do.”

“In order to understand and provide support to people with disabilities, we need to understand their medical condition.”

“People with the same medical condition share the same needs.”

“People with disabilities can be grouped into people with learning disabilities, people with mental illnesses and people with physical conditions.”

“People with disabilities look different to other people, if you look hard enough, because of their medical condition.”

“Doctors are the best people to decide what a person with disabilities needs.”

“People with disabilities can’t reach the same standard, because of their medical condition.”

“People with disabilities won’t be able to do their jobs as well as other people, because of their medical condition.”

“People with disabilities may not know how to behave properly, because of their medical condition.”

“People with disabilities don’t recognise the truth properly, and lie, because of their medical condition.”

“People with disabilities are likely to cause problems for other people, because of their medical condition.”

“People with disabilities aren’t sexual, because of their medical condition.”

“People with disabilities are overly sexual, because of their medical condition.”

“People with disabilities need to be treated differently to other people, because of their medical condition.”

“People need special qualifications and training to work with children and people with disabilities.”

“We need to use special words and initials when talking about and providing activities for people with disabilities.”

“There’s nothing really wrong with X; lots of people have far worse medical conditions. S/he could get better if they tried hard enough, but has a weak personality.”

The Care Model of Disability

“People with disabilities are special people with special needs. They are different to everyone else.”

“People with disabilities need help from non-disabled people to manage their lives, because of their medical condition.”

“People with disabilities will get into trouble if they try to manage on their own, and be dangerous to others.”

“It’s better for a non-disabled person to control the money for a person with disabilities.”

“People with disabilities can’t live independently.”

“People with disabilities are a burden to others.”

“Disabled people should always bring a carer with them, or be accompanied by an adult. Otherwise they’re a health and safety risk and it’s not safe for them to attend.”

“Adults with disabilities have the mental age of children, so it’s best to treat them like children.”

“People with disabilities aren’t able to consent to sex.”

“People with disabilities are unfit to bring up children.”

“It’s kinder to teach children with disabilities in schools specially for them, where they won’t be upset by difficult subjects and unkind students.”

“It’s not safe to allow people with disabilities into buildings that aren’t designed specially for them.”

“People with disabilities may over-estimate their abilities, and need rescuing for their own sake.”

“The best way to provide support for people with disabilities is in a special facility for people with the same disability as them.”

“If no cure is available, it might be kinder to let the person die.”

The Tragedy Model of Disability

“Have you heard that X is blind/deaf/wheelchair-bound now? It’s a tragedy.”

“S/he’s so-o-o-o brave.”

“S/he suffers from blindness/MS/cerebral palsy.”

“S/he’s triumphed over [the tragedy of] disability to achieve.”

“I feel so inspired by their courage in living their life like an ordinary person, despite [the tragedy of] their disabilities.”

“S/he’s such a victim.”

“I would rather die than have doctors keep me alive as a person with disabilities.”

The Charity Model of Disability

“People with disabilities are always begging.”

“We need separate charities for different medical conditions, because people with the same conditions share the same needs, and these are different to people with other conditions.”

“The best people to run charities for people with disabilities and to represent their needs are non-disabled people, who are best able to decide what’s important.”

“One of the best ways for charities to help people with disabilities is to find ways of curing them, or of preventing more people like them from being born.”

“It’s really important that everyone involved with charity fundraising has fun, or benefits personally in some other way.”

“People with disabilities benefit when we have fun alongside each other at events, particularly when I tease them or flirt with them, or give them a drink or a smoke like a normal person.”

“We need to make sure that people with disabilities are deserving of our help, before we give out any money.”

“Non-disabled people can act as ‘missionaries’ and make a huge difference to the lives of people with disabilities.”

“People with disabilities should be grateful to receive support.”

The Scientific Model of Disability

“It’s better if people with disabilities don’t have children, so they don’t pass on their defective genes.”

“If no cure is available, it might be best to prevent people with disabilities from being born, through testing and abortion.”

“Scientific progress means that in the future, disability and old age won’t exist.”

“People with disabilities are freaks of nature, and can be viewed like any other scientific curiosity.”

“I enjoy watching documentaries about the lives of people with disabilities, and asking the people with disabilities that I meet in the street ‘what’s wrong with them?’.”

“Modern prosthetics and implants turn people with disabilities into super-humans, who are at least as able as the rest of us. In fact, they may have an unfair advantage.”

“There’s no point in making changes to the way we organise the world, when soon there won’t be any people with disabilities.”

“It’s a waste of money to put more or better accessible facilities into new buildings than the law demands, because soon there won’t be any people with disabilities.”

“Disability has nothing to do with me personally, because I will never have a disability.”

The Religious Model of Disability

“People with disabilities or their families have sinned and need to be forgiven by God, who will then cure them.”

“People with disabilities will not have an after-life.”

“People with disabilities are possessed and need to be exorcised of evil spirits.”

“The purpose of people with disabilities is to bring other people closer to God, by teaching them charity and humility.”.”

The Admin Model of Disability

“People with disabilities should let us know in advance they are coming, so that we can make special arrangements.”

“People with disabilities need special evacuation plans made for them before they can come into a building.”

“People with the same medical conditions will have the same needs, which will cost the same to meet.”

“People with disabilities can’t be trusted to tell the truth, and will exaggerate their condition so they can get special treatment, and access to benefits and services that they don’t deserve.”

“Non-disabled people are best placed to judge what people with disabilities need, using reports from doctors.”

“The job of disability service providers is to make sure that people with disabilities don’t get more help than they are entitled to receive.”

“People with disabilities are always complaining about services. They should shut up and be grateful.”

“All of this identity politics is a self-indulgent, middle-class distraction. Everybody should be treated the same.”

“It’s no good playing the Disability card with me. I know better.”

The Contemporary Way of thinking about ‘Disabled People’

The Deaf Model of Disability

“There is nothing ‘wrong’ with Deaf people; we don’t have a disability. We simply use a different language, Sign.”

“Sign languages are as rich, complex and varied as oral languages.”

“Deaf culture — plays, performances, films, poems etc — is as valuable and important as other cultures.”

“Sign language interpreters (SLIs) are not for Deaf people but for hearing people, who refuse to learn Sign even though they could.”

“We are Disabled when we are denied access to information in Sign, interpreters, Induction loops and Palantypists.”

“We are Disabled when our Deaf Clubs are closed and our buildings are sold off by charities.”

The Social Model of Disability

“Most of us will develop impairments at some point in our lives; the rest will die young. Disability is normal.”

“Every human being is a unique mixture of emotional, physical and intellectual strengths and weaknesses, and these vary greatly over our lifetimes. We’re all equal.”

“Acquiring or being born with an impairment does not affect our ability, personality or character.”

“Science teaches us that impairments will never disappear, for a wide range of reasons.”

“No one can tell what a Disabled person looks like. You might see my mobility aid, but not my impairment.”

“Disabled people and their families are the experts on our needs, not doctors, scientists or social workers.”

“I run on my prosthetics, but for everything else I use a wheelchair because sport makes my stumps so sore.”

“Using a cochlear implant doesn’t mean my hearing is ‘normal’.”

“Lots of people have more than one medical condition. Trying to separate us into boxes hides our real needs.”

“I might have the same medical condition as my neighbour, but it doesn’t mean that my needs are the same.”

“I might have a different medical condition to my neighbour, but it doesn’t mean that my access requirements are different.”

“Access requirements are key to understanding Disabled people’s needs, not medical labels.”

“Society creates barriers to prevent people with impairments from participating fully.”

“We are Disabled by society, not by our medical conditions.”

“I suffer from not being able to get the support I need to go out, not from my impairment.”

“I can’t get into the building because there’s no ramp, not because I use a wheelchair.”

“I can’t enjoy the cinema because there’s no audio-description, not because I am blind.”

“I can’t book a ticket because there’s no induction loop, not because I am hard of hearing.”

“I can’t do my job because my employer won’t make the adjustments I need, not because of my access requirements.”

“I can’t apply for the grant because the information isn’t in Easy Words and Pictures, not because I have a learning difficulty.”

“I can’t access the conference because there’s no quiet space for breaks, not because of my anxiety.”

“My child wasn’t ‘born to be different’. It’s society that treats them differently from other children.”

“I don’t ‘battle’ my impairment and I’m not a victim of it. It’s part of me, and I’m proud of who I am.”

“Of course my impairment causes me difficulties, but everyone faces problems and challenges, not just Disabled people.”

“Everyone can help to create a more inclusive society, by becoming aware of barriers and tackling these as our allies.”

The Independent Living Model of Disability

“Independence comes from having control over the help I need, not from the ability to do everything for myself.”

“Dependence is not caused by impairment. Dependence is created when services and benefits are inadequate, and/or when a Disabled person is not enabled to control their life.”

“The Mental Capacity Act supports my right to make as many decisions for myself as I can.”

“With support for Independent Living, Disabled people can lead lives that are as full and rewarding as everyone else’s, whatever our level of impairment.”

“People with impairments can have complete control over our lives through the use of Personal Assistants (PAs).”

“I use Direct Payments from the local authority to employ my own support workers, rather than receiving services.”

“The only qualification someone needs to work with me is good listening skills.”

“We are not inevitably excluded from participating in an event because of our impairments. We are excluded only by the failure to meet our access requirements.”

“Like many Disabled people, I am a parent and carer myself. My child may help around the house, but I am the decision-maker.”

“I love my life. So what if I need help to dress and use the toilet?”

“Why should I be grateful? I have rights, like everyone else.”

The Economic Model of Disability

“I’m perfectly able to work, but no one will employ me.”

“I’m too ill to work, and suffer from inadequate benefits/the Benefit cap/the Bedroom Tax/benefit sanctions/benefit cuts.”

“Disabled people need support from benefits and councils because they are poor, not because of their medical condition.”

“It costs me the same each hour to purchase care as someone with a higher level of need.”

“I have the same impairment as my neighbour, but our homes and family situations are totally different. This means that our support costs are very different too.”

“Disabled people are not bad parents because they need help from the council. They are just too poor to pay for nannies and housekeepers. Why are their children being taken away?”

“Parents of Disabled children are not bad parents because they need extra help from the council. They are just too poor to pay for nannies and housekeepers. Why are their children being taken away?”

“Residential homes for children and young people are now being run by private companies in remote rural areas. Why are companies being allowed to profit at the expense of poor families being split apart and traumatised? As we have seen in the past when Disabled children were institutionalised far from their homes, the damage lasts a lifetime.”

“Celebrities have help from cleaners, housekeepers, nannies, drivers and secretaries, and everyone wants to be a celebrity. Why am I judged negatively because I need help?”

The Diversity Model of Disability

“Why would I want to look like everyone else?

“In the nineteenth century, Women, Disabled people, People of Colour and LGBTQI+* people were all seen as inferior to White, Heterosexual Men, it wasn’t just Disabled people. Scientific and economic theories were used to support beliefs about the superiority of White Heterosexual Men.” *Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex plus.

“In the nineteenth century, White Heterosexual Men with impairments were regarded as not being ‘proper men’ or fully adult. This is still the case today.”

“Women, People of Colour and LGBTQI+ people were denied equal access to education and employment for much of the twentieth century because of their supposed ‘inferiority’, and also faced barriers because of attitudes towards them. It’s not just Disabled people who experienced discrimination.”

“In the twenty-first century, we understand that Women, People of Colour and LGBTQI+ people are equal to White, Heterosexual Men and have the same talents, abilities and strengths. In the same way, no one is inferior because they are born with or acquire an impairment.”

“An event may be ‘diverse’ without being inclusive of everyone, let alone on equal terms. Diversity is not good enough.”

“We can’t be put into boxes according to Equality Act definitions — some people will fit into every box at some point.”

“It’s important to recognise what groups of people have in common and the barriers they face, so we can achieve change. But all of us have multiple labels and multiple facets to our identities. Labels don’t define us.”

Disability and Diversity

Not all Disabled people have the same experiences. 

  • In contrast to urban, mainstream cultures, smaller and rural communities may not be aware of the Contemporary Way of thinking about Disability at all.
  • In many religions, impairment is a sign of sin, which means that Disabled people are also isolated due to shame.
  • Some communities may have higher levels of impairment, for example due to increased levels of poverty, the after-effects of war, and/or genetic conditions.
  • Around one in three LGBTQI+* people living in the UK have one or more impairments, compared to between a quarter and a fifth of the general population.
  • Disabled People of Colour and LGBTQI+ Disabled people are more likely to report discrimination when accessing benefits and services such as social care than other Disabled people.

* Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex plus.

More about LGBTQI+ Disabled people

There are several reasons why the rate of impairment is higher among LGBTQI+ people:

  • Homo/bi/transphobia is a major cause of mental health difficulties.
  • Social isolation is a major cause of mental health difficulties.
  • LGBTQI+ people experience higher levels of addiction and related mental and physical health conditions, due to ‘self-medicating’ in response to discrimination and social isolation. This problem is increased by the fact that most LGBTQI+ community spaces serve alcohol in order to pay their overheads.
  • There is a higher rate of HIV among men who have sex with men than the general population.

LGBTQI+ Disabled people are also more dependent on local authorities for support from Adult Services departments than other Disabled people. This is due to the facts that:

  • LGBTQI+ people often move away from the areas that they grew up in, to get away from discrimination and to find more people like themselves.
  • Most LGBTQI+ people still have no opportunity to have children. LGBTQI+ people who have had children in heterosexual relationships may lose close contact with them after ‘coming out’.
  • LGBTQI+ people’s relationships with family members are often affected by homo/bi/transphobia as well as by geographical divisions.
  • LGBTQI+ people’s relationships with work colleagues are often less close than other people’s, because they do not feel able to ‘come out’ at work due to concerns about discrimination.
  • LGBTQI+ people’s relationships with their neighbours are less likely to be close, because they are regarded as being ‘different’.
  • LGBTQI+ people’s friendships with other LGBTQI+ people are more likely to take place in social settings such as clubs, bars and other event spaces than in private homes. (This is partly due to fear of hate crime if visitors are identified by neighbours.)
  • LGBTQI+ Disabled people are therefore much less likely than other Disabled people to have unpaid ‘carer’ support from family members, friends and neighbours.

Even when LGBTQI+ Disabled people have no one else to support them, local authorities will now only fund social care to Disabled people deemed to be in ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’ need. They will then provide them with the fewest number of hours that are deemed necessary for survival, rather than a package that will provide for an autonomous and independent life. Disabled people who are assessed as being in ‘low’ or ‘moderate’ need receive no help at all.  LGBTQI+ Disabled people may also feel very isolated by voluntary support and community services, because of the assumptions being made that Disabled people are either asexual and genderless, or heterosexual.

In general, LGBTQI+ Disabled people are much more socially isolated than other Disabled people. Two-thirds of people become Disabled in adult life, but as above, when LGBTQI+ people acquire impairments they have far fewer sources of support available than other Disabled people to help them to claim benefits and services.

This in turn means that it takes LGBTQI+ Disabled people much longer to access benefits and services than other Disabled people. In the meantime, they are unable to access their social networks, and these may quickly disappear.

LGBTQI+ Disabled people are most isolated from the LGBTQI+ community itself. In 2017, the University of Bristol published research that had been carried out in association with Regard (the national LGBTQI+ Disabled People’s Organisation), Stonewall and the Social Care Institute for Excellence about the experiences of LGBTQI+ Disabled people who employ their own Personal Assistants (PAs). In theory, this group have the highest level of control over their own lives.

  • More than 90% said that their needs as a LGBTQI+ Disabled person were either not considered at all or were only given some consideration when their needs were assessed or reviewed by their local authority.
  • Less than a third said that they were comfortable talking about these needs with staff in their local authority.
  • About the same proportion said that they felt they had been discriminated against by their local authority on the grounds of the sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • When asked about getting support to do LGBTQI+ ‘things’ (e.g. go to an event/bar, have help to maintain friendships and relationships), 22% said that their PAs did not help them with any of these activities.
  • When asked why not: 40% said it was because they were not out to their PAs; 40% said they were not comfortable with their PAs helping with this; and 20% said that their PAs had refused to help with these type of activities.

LGBTQI+ Disabled people may also be put off from accessing LGBTQI+ social networks because they do not fit into images of the ‘body beautiful’.

www.regard.org.uk www.stonewall.org.uk www.scie.org.uk

Disability in Newham

Newham was the main Paralympic Host Borough, and according to the promises made to the International Olympic Committee, residents are intended to benefit from a ‘separate but equal’ Paralympic Legacy in addition to a fully inclusive Olympic Legacy.

  • Only 16% of Newham residents define themselves as ‘White British’. All residents belong to a ‘minority group’.
  • Newham residents will spend a longer percentage of their lives as Disabled people than other London residents, despite having similar life expectancy.
  • Twice as many Newham residents are Disabled when they retire as the average London resident.
  • Newham has the highest proportion of older residents in the UK reporting barriers to accessing goods and services; very low incomes; and experiences of crime.
  • Care home residents in Newham are more likely to be living in unfit or inadequate conditions than anywhere else in the UK. 60% of care home residents live in homes that are inadequate or require improvement, compared to 23% nationally and just 5% in Croydon.
  • Newham has the highest proportion in London of adult residents aged under 65 who are Deaf or hard of hearing, at almost twice the London and national average. There are over 300 Deaf residents under the age of 18.
  • Newham also has the highest proportion in London of over-75s who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Newham has one of the highest proportions of blind and visually impaired people aged 16-64 in London, and the highest proportion of 65-74 year olds.
  • The Mental Health Act detention rate in Newham is 23.5 per 100,000 people, compared to 15.5 across England. Newham residents are also more likely to have schizophrenia, bi-polar and other psychoses.
  • Newham residents have the lowest one-year cancer survival rate for 15-99 year olds in England, and the highest cardio-vascular mortality rate in London.
  • Newham residents also have the highest rate in London for TB, at seven times the national average and three times higher than the London average; and an HIV rate that is three times the English average.
  • Following London 2012, Newham has the highest level of homelessness in the UK, and one of the biggest gaps in affordability between what is being built and what residents can afford to pay. Disabled residents are even more likely to live in inaccessible and/or insecure housing than other residents.
  • A significant number of Newham’s Disabled residents are in temporary accommodation, including hotels and residential homes, outside of the borough.
  • Newham has some of the worst childhood obesity rates in England, and is among the four least active London boroughs. Adults have the lowest level of cultural engagement in the UK, and are most likely to attend free locally based events and activities. Social isolation is therefore very common.
  • Officially, Newham has the lowest rate of children with Special Educational Needs in London, at 0.7% in 2018 compared to an average of 3%. However, Newham residents are significantly more likely to lack qualifications and to work in ‘elementary’ jobs than other Londoners, as well as being more likely to speak English as an additional language. This suggests that residents are less able to demand that their family members receive support, and that the numbers of Disabled children are much higher.
  • Newham officially has an average proportion of adult residents with learning difficulties. However, the high proportion of residents in ‘elementary’ jobs; the failure to statement school students; and the numbers of visible residents with learning difficulties and other impairments, suggests that the numbers and proportion of Disabled residents are much higher than is officially acknowledged.
  • There is a higher proportion of young people in Newham than other London boroughs. Young people, older people and Disabled people are all more vulnerable to crime than other groups.
  • In 2017-18 Newham residents reported more crime than any other borough apart from Westminster, Camden and Lambeth. Newham experienced the most murders of any borough; and was second only to Southwark in terms of knife crime levels.
  • Police report that social isolation makes Disabled residents especially vulnerable to ‘mate crime’, where a criminal pretends to befriend a vulnerable adult, and believe Newham has one of the highest rates in London. ‘Cuckooing’ is common, where criminals take over a vulnerable adult’s home for their own use.

For more information about Newham, see https://www.aston-mansfield.org.uk/what-we-do/community-involvement-unit/directories-and-statistics/ and https://www.newham.gov.uk/Pages/ServiceChild/Joint-Strategic-Needs-Assessment.aspx and https://data.london.gov.uk

Final Words on Disability

 Language is always changing, and opinions vary among Disabled people about how they would like to be described, so always ask them first (remember to let people finish speaking, rather than finishing their sentences for them).

DO Talk about Disabled people.
DON’T Talk about ‘the Disabled’, ‘the Deaf’, ‘the Blind’ (and similarly for people from other ‘protected characteristic’ groups).

DO Refer to an individual by their name.
DON’T Describe them by their medical condition e.g. don’t say ‘diabetics’ or ‘epileptics’ rather than ‘people who have …’.

DO Refer to ‘someone living with x [health condition or impairment].
DON’T Use ‘suffers from x’.

DO Refer to someone who ‘requires substantial personal assistance’ and/or who has ‘high medical needs’ (not necessarily the same thing).
DON’T Use ‘severely disabled’ or ‘profoundly disabled’.

DO Ask about access requirements.
DON’T Refer to ‘special needs’.

DO Refer to ‘accessible toilets’.
DON’T Use ‘disabled toilets’.

DO Refer to a venue being ‘accessible to people who use wheelchairs and scooters’ or ‘step-free’ (this is not necessarily the same thing).
DON’T Use ‘wheelchair accessible’.

DO Refer to ‘parking for Blue Badge users’.
DON’T Use ‘disabled parking bays.’

DO Refer to groups of people by their access requirements e.g. ‘wheelchair users’, ‘induction loop users’.
DON’T Describe people by their disability aids e.g. ‘wheelchairs’.

DO Listen to how Disabled people want to describe themselves. e.g. members of the national organisation People First voted to describe themselves as ‘people with learning difficulties’ rather than ‘people with learning disabilities’ or ‘mentally handicapped’.
DON’T Use language from other countries, e.g. ‘differently abled’, ‘physically challenged’, ‘intellectually impaired’ or ‘handicapped’.

DO Refer to ‘wheelchair users’, who may be part-time or full-time (the majority of wheelchair users can walk a little in some circumstances).
DON’T Describe people as ‘wheelchair bound’ or ‘confined to a wheelchair’. A wheelchair is liberating and represents independence and freedom to Disabled people.

DO Refer to people with mobility impairments.
DON’T Use ‘lame’ or ‘crippled’.

DO Refer to ‘people with sensory impairments’, ‘Blind people’, ‘Visually Impaired People (VIPs)’, ‘hard of hearing people’, ‘hearing aid users’, ‘Deaf people’ (to mean Sign Language users), and ‘People with dual sensory impairments’.
DON’T Use ‘hearing impaired’, ‘sight impaired’ or ‘deaf/blind’.

DO Refer to people who are ‘non-verbal’ or ‘non-oral’.
DON’T Use ‘dumb’.

DO Refer to ‘people with mental health difficulties’.
DON’T Use ‘mad’ or ‘crazy’.

DO Refer to ‘people’ with dementia.
DON’T Describe people as being ‘senile’.

DO Use ‘seizures’.
DON’T Refer to ‘fits’, ‘spells’ or ‘attacks’.

DO Understand that some language to describe Disabled people may cause a great deal of offence, e.g. ‘midget’, ‘spastic’. Use ‘a person of small stature’ or ‘a person with cerebral palsy’ instead.
DON’T use impairment-related language negatively and inaccurately e.g. ‘blind to/deaf to’ to mean being ignored; ‘dumb’ or ‘lame’ to mean stupid; or ‘crippled’ or ‘disabled’ to mean non-functional.

DO Refer to ‘supported decision-making’.
DON’T Use ‘lacks capacity’. The Mental Capacity Act recognises everyone’s right to make the decisions they are capable of making. So someone with high medical needs who needs substantial levels of personal assistance will usually still be able to make it clear that they are unhappy being present at an event or activity and wishes to leave, and this decision must be acted on by carers and support workers.

‘Carers’are unpaid family members and friends who provide support for a Disabled person in their own time. Carers may also play a role in organising paid support, managing a Disabled person’s money, planning a Disabled person’s schedule, and supporting their decision-making.

Carers should not be confused with paid support workers, who according to their role may be known as Personal Assistants (PAs), Care Assistants, Care Workers or Support Workers. Paid workers provide practical support and assistance rather than care, and play a much more limited role in a Disabled person’s life. Support workers are at events only to support their employer, but carers may wish to participate if they are not covering for a support worker.