BBC News – Paralympics 2012: Is it OK to call the athletes brave?

BBC News – Paralympics 2012: Is it OK to call the athletes brave?.

Was the BBC brave, or stupid, to cover this?

What a minefield. The only people who care about this are people who won’t like whatever language you chose to use. Most disabled people, as far as I’m aware are either confused by the debate on language, or non-plussed by it. If you asked a focus group of disabled people of varying ages and disabilities which words and phrases they least liked, I bet every single person would have different answers.


While we’re on the subject, I’ve heard various bodies on channel 4 use every one of the phrases they were apparently supposed to avoid. I’ve also heard Ade Adepetan go out of his way to ask what someone “suffers from” and he’s a disabled person himself! That’s part of why this is such a minefield. I notice also that it’s Damon Rose of Ouch who has written the article. One wonders why he bothered, now ‘Ouch’ is reduced to a miniscule presence on the BBC news team. Once upon a time, this article would have been the subject of one of his editorials and  would have been discussed with relish, by a whole stream of disabled people of varying ages and backgrounds on the now defunct BBC message boards. As it is, the article will disappear with barely a whimper, and whose fault is that?!

Never mind the politics, what about the language?

As for the language of the article itself, like I say, I’ve heard channel 4  commentators use every one of those phrases on the list of words best avoided, repeatedly. One wonders whether they ever read the document. I doubt they care, they’ll just be happy to have snatched the Paralympics coverage from the jaws of the once smug BBC.

It’s wrong to call the athletes ‘brave’, ‘inspirational’ ‘suffers from’, ‘sufferrer’, ‘victim of’, ‘normal/abnormal’. Firstly, who decides what is normal or abnormal? it’s all relative depending on your own experience. What is normal for me as a disabled person will be abnormal to someone else. Things like falling being as natural as breathing, is true for me, but completely abnormal for someone else. To say ‘suffers from,’ ‘sufferer’ or ‘victim of’ makes us sound passive, like vegetables as if we have no life. We are not sufferers or victims, we are people who are living our lives in ways that are ‘normal’ for us, against the backdrop of the pigeon holes the Government, the DWP, the media and medical records try to squeeze us into.

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