Letter: Appropriate terms for disability: a start, not a solution

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The Independent Online
Sir: The real issues underlying the language of disability are quite straightforward, even if you misunderstand them ('The wilder shores of PC', 21 July). These issues have little to do with the political correctness movement. They are, quite simply, issues of linguistic (in)accuracy and its ethical and political consequences. For, although getting the terminology right will not in itself secure the rights of disabled people, as W. W. Baldock points out (Letters, 21 July), it would nevertheless be a useful start.

Instead of asking whether the term 'mentally handicapped' is insulting, ask if it is appropriate. Is a 'handicap' the same as an 'impairment' or a 'disability'? No, it is not. Is it right to refer to disabled people as 'the disabled' or 'the handicapped', as if we were a separate species? No, again. If we object to the term 'handicapped', should you not drop it? You would not use racist or sexist language, so why insult or patronise disabled people?

Yours sincerely,

DAVID STEAD

Sheffield

21 July

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