Blind World Magazine

Political correctness gone mad.

October 17, 2005., UK.

A Tory councillor who provoked a row after allegedly suggesting severely disabled children should be sent to the guillotine insisted his words had been taken out of context. Owen Lister, a retired GP, resigned as deputy mayor of Swindon, Wiltshire, after the row broke out over his comments at a meeting earlier this month. Lister reportedly told a discussion on sending the children to a care home in Cornwall: 'I would guillotine them.' Lister admitted to using the word 'guillotine' but said that he had been referring to fears that links with children's families would be severed.

Is this political correctness gone mad or is the row justified?

Should people lighten up or be offended by such remarks?

On balance I myself think context and the company we are in do play there part in how we react.

We should acknowledge that each and everyone of us will have different experiences and reactions to language and its impact will affect each of us in many ways.

What for me may be acceptable to others may not be acceptable and its personal impact will not be the same.

The language below illustrates what I find unacceptable.


This makes us sound like an object and that we are all identical.


This has very doubtful origins, but certainly became attached to the stigma of people who only live off charities.


Well, just look at the word IN-VALID. The word actually invalidates our lives.


This once innocent term has become stigmatised by its association with either rather evil people or just pathetic victims.


This has become attached to the stigma of the institutionalisation and degradation that these people have suffered, (both HISTORICALLY and in the PRESENT).


Deaf people are neither dumb in the sense of being STUPID nor in the sense of being MUTE.

Remember if a deaf person will not talk it's because they were born WITHOUT hearing and have never been able to hear and therefore mimic voices.


We have no right to assume that anyone is suffering unless the person tells us that they are.

Anyway, it has got such a NEGATIVE impact, it stops us from remembering that people with any condition whatsoever are capable of enjoying themselves.


Again it sounds pathetic and conjures up images of people needing charity.


So called evidence for illness is increasingly being questioned and to construe it that way deviates attention from the terrible mistreatment experienced by many, if not all the people who end up being treated by psychiatrists.


How many people do you know who are tied to their WHEELCHAIRS? Some People use restraints but only to stop them from falling out of the chair. The wheelchair is still their only means of getting around giving them freedom, (free to move), it is not a prison.


Bad simply implies a pre-valued judgement, as does the question, "What's wrong with your leg"?


This word isn't so terrible but it does sound like you are paying for a service and that you can get your money back if you are not happy with the service that you receive.


This is a particularly nasty term of abuse, which is meant to imply that someone is stupid even though its origins were simply a direct referral to the spasms of the muscles experienced by people with cerebral palsy.


This term was used very misleadingly, to describe people with Downs Syndrome; simply because a part of the syndrome is a facial feature that reminded some bright spark of the MONGOL race, (i.e. slanted eyes and a rather broad face).


Would YOU like to sit on a Disabled Toilet? Hopefully the toilet is a fully functional toilet, so lets just call it an ACCESSIBLE TOILET!!.

REMEMBER: Changing our language is not easy and it would be surprising if you could do so immediately. However, language is habitual and can be altered like any other habit if we keep on trying. By far the most important thing to remember is that we honour the particular people we are talking to. Should they express a preference for a term that has been listed as unacceptable, use it when you are with them, but you might venture to say that you are used to using a different term and state why you use it as they may not of heard it, or the argument for it themselves.

I remember travelling on a bus service which enables disabled people to travel from door to door and got into conversation with a lady who was a wheelchair user.

We got into a discussion about my visual impairment or as I prefer my being blind.

She told me I was a visually impaired person, to which I replied "I am not. I am a blind person."

Whilst it may be a simplistic argument, I am happy to be seen as a blind person because I have no useful vision and in my view I believe that the general population as a whole can relate to this better. This is particularly true when it comes to meeting my personal or practical needs.

However, I am not dismissing those people who see themselves as having a visual impairment. As I mentioned above, I respect their own opinions but urge everyone to respect the wishes of those individuals who have their own preferences. For my part, I am happy to be seen as either blind, or indeed a visually impaired person!

I think it is worth noting that language and theory are developing and changing all the time; so we should avoid preaching; but rather sharing with the wider community our current thinking and take them with us.

If you have a news item, story or you would just like to comment on any item you have read please contact the Editor, John Perry, at: by telephone on (+44) 151 933 4809 or visit:

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