Mind your language

People with learning disabilities deserve a fair, equal and enjoyable life just like everybody else but still face disproportionate levels of hate crime, bullying and harassment.

I hear shocking stories of people being spat at, thrown stones at, called horrible names and being made to feel unsafe in their own homes.

It's not acceptable for people to be treated like this. How would you feel if that was your son or daughter, cousin or friend?

The way people with learning disabilities are portrayed in the media has a huge impact on how the public view them and one of the most powerful factors in the language used on screen and radio. Words like 'retard', 'moron', 'mong' and 'spastic still feature and can be heard everyday. While most who use these words are unaware of their history, they carry old fashioned values and attitudes with them and shouldn't be acceptable in our society.

This is not political correctness gone out of control. These words are genuinely offensive to people with learning disabilities and the power they have is immense.

Earlier this year, the Bradford People First self-advocacy group got the World Health Organisation (WHO) to change the offensive words they used to classify learning disabilities. The WHO recognised that their existing system of classifying langauge was offensive and out of touch and have pledged to change things by 2017.

But real change starts with all of us - we each have the ability to make a huge difference in the way people with learning disabilities are treated. In my work at the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, I've been involved with a project to find out more about experiences of hate crime, bullying and harassment as well as explore ways to prevent those things happening in the future.

We have developed some incredible resources to support people with learning disabilities and this week we launched a campaign to change attitudes as a way of preventing further abuse.

Jon Snow from Channel 4 news has endorsed the campaign and we've also asked the likes of Ofcom and many UK broadcaster to improve things.

But real change can only happen if the public take a stand.

  • Sign our petition to Ofcom asking them to pressure broadcasters in changing how they represent people with learning disabilities on television and radio
  • Stop using words that people with learning disabilities find offensive
  • Contact programme makers if you hear offensive words being used on their programmes and direct them to our guide and video
  • Share your views on Facebook or Twitter (and tag us at @FPLD_Tweets or facebook.com/foundationforpeoplewithlearningdisabilities)
  • Ask your friends and family not to use these words around you and explain how offensive they are.
  • Together we can make a difference!