Victory for disabled campaigning group as use of derogatory and offensive words is banned

Members of the Bradford People First group

Members of the Bradford People First group

First published in News

Disabled campaigners in Bradford are celebrating victory in a row over use of 'offensive' words.

And an MP says the triumph is a ‘shining example’ of how people can make a difference.

Members of Bradford People First were stunned to see certain terms used in a meeting about learning disabilities.

A doctor gave a presentation with slides featuring words such as 'retardation and subnormal'.

Damian Marshall, of BPF, said: “We were upset and very surprised to find these were words on slides used by health professionals to describe our conditions. We thought such words were no longer used.”

The group – run by people with learning disabilities for people with learning disabilities – decided to take action and wrote to Shipley Conservative MP Phil Davies to enlist his support.

Now, the group has been told that as from 2017, such offensive and derogatory terms will no longer be used.

"This is a great achievement and a historic change," said Mr Marshall.

The controversy centred on the World Health Organisation's definition of learning disability within an international classification used around the world by health professionals to help them identify diseases and disabilities. The slides were part of the ICD-10 – International Classification of Diseases – diagnostic manual.

The BPF group became aware of the situation at the meeting hosted by Bradford NHS District Care Trust.

“A doctor talked about what learning disability is. The offensive words were on slides he used for the presentation. These are like words we no longer use to describe those of different ethnicity,” said Mr Marshall.

The doctor who gave the presentation explained to BPF that such language was a definition given by worldwide health organisations.

“Both the doctor and the Care Trust said they did not like the terminology," said Mr Marshall, whose group found that definitions given by the UK's Department of Health were more appropriate than the international version.

“The Department’s definition complements government policy to tackle hate crime against the disabled,” said Mr Marshall. “If professionals can use such degrading words, it will encourage the public to do the same. This can be considered a hate crime as the words are upsetting and offensive.

“We feel we have made progress for people with learning disabilities and society.”

Mr Marshall paid tribute to Mr Davies's help and support.

After hearing about BFP's concerns, the MP contacted Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb to take up the case.

Mr Davies said he had been shocked to find the words being used on slides.

“No decent person would use those words in this country, in this day and age. This is a good outcome all round,” he said. “These words were causing offence, though I am sure none was intended by the bodies using them.

“It shows that if people want to bring about change they can do so. They can make a difference and this is a shining example of that.”

BPF support worker Shayma Begum said: “I am so glad to have been part of this project. It is wonderful to have achieved this change.”

She said BPF was waiting to hear what words/phrases will replace those felt to be offensive. “We have been told this might take some time,” she said.

Debra Gilderdale, head of service at Bradford District Care Trust, said: “We are pleased that the World Health Organisation has agreed to revise its wording in the next edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

“We have worked closely with Bradford People First following their concern raised in February 2013.

“This was in regard to international recommended words our doctor used in a presentation. These words were not used in any way to cause offence and are not the words we would use when speaking about people with a learning disability.

“We fully supported Bradford People First concern and as a Trust stopped using this terminology when referring to ICD. We also recommended Bradford People First contacted the “Improving Health and Lives (IHAL)” programme which has led to this international change.”

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