BPA distributes 'how-to' guide to media as part of drive to change perceptions

  • @RobinScottEllio

The British Paralympic Association has issued a "guide to reporting on Paralympic sport" to the media, many of whom are covering their first Games, as part of its attempt to "positively affect the way that British society thinks, feels and behaves towards disabled people in general".

While the BPA sees its main role as overseeing Britain's bid for athletic success in the Games it is also keen to use the next 11 days to address wider issues surrounding disability in the country.

"We believe it is crucial that Paralympic athletes are portrayed or referred to as elite athletes first and foremost, rather than seen primarily as people who have overcome great adversity," writes Tim Hollingsworth, the BPA's chief executive, in the guide's introduction.

"While that is undoubtedly part of the story, nothing irritates world class Paralympic athletes more than being patronised or pitied, or made to feel that their impairment is being utilised ultimately to define them or their achievements"

The guide provides a list of correct and incorrect terms to describe Paralympic athletes and disabled and non-disable people. It recommends avoiding terms such as "suffers from". "These portray the individuals as being in a weak, frail or tragic position." Many athletes would say "they do not 'suffer' from their impairment".

It also offers advice on being around disabled people. "Success will be measured not just in medals but also by the effect the Games has on the public and the shift in perceptions of disability sport and disability that we can, and must, affect."

It is an issue Oscar Pistorius has also addressed in the build-up to the Games. He said: "One of the nice things about this Paralympics, is that for the first time, whether it be the media or the athletes, they have just said it like it is. These are disabled athletes, they have nothing to be ashamed about, but they don't focus on the disability they focus on the ability."

Terminology guide

Correct terminology Disabled.

Incorrect Person with a disability (Equality Act 2010).

Correct Non-disabled person.

Incorrect Able-bodied, Normal "(Non-disabled" gives a clearer distinction as to what you are describing than "able bodied").

Avoid "The disabled", "The blind" (grouping people by their disability implies all disabled people in that group share the same characteristics, which stereoptypes them). "Normal" (what is deemed normal is highly subjective).

Everday phrases It is perfectly acceptable to say to a visually-impaired person "I'll see you later."