Shocking new research reveals the outdated and inappropriate language endured by Britain’s disabled community
Ignorance about the correct language to use when talking to people with disabilities is rife in the UK, research by charity Leonard Cheshire reveals.
- Nearly three quarters of the 14.1 million disabled people living in the UK say more needs to be done about outdated and offensive language use.
- Leonard Cheshire, the UK’s leading disability charity has worked with disabled rapper Kray-Z Legz to produce a powerful rap which explores ‘The Language of Disability’ and the importance of modernising outdated language.
With the country emerging from lockdown, nearly three quarters (73%) of 14.1 million disabled people say that more needs to be done for non-disabled people to understand that their words cause offence. More than 2,400 disabled and non-disabled adults were involved in a survey.
Shocking stats revealed that nearly half (46%) of all disabled Brits feel regularly ‘ignored’ or ‘over-looked’ by non-disabled people due to widespread use of inappropriate or demeaning language. More than one in ten (12%) disabled people reported having to correct the misuse of language around disabilities a staggering 4-6 days each week.
Bringing the research to life, Leonard Cheshire has collaborated with South Londoner disabled rapper Kray-Z Legz, to launch a new rap and video titled ‘The Language of Disability’. The musician, who previously worked with Snoop Dogg, wanted to create the rap to raise further awareness around the barrier of language.
Kray-Z Legz, who was born with spina bifida, has drawn on some of his own experiences as a disabled person living in the UK in the rap, which calls on listeners to actively educate themselves on disability and engage with disabled people. By highlighting some of the issues around the language used towards disabled people, Leonard Cheshire and Kray-Z Legz hope to prompt conversations about language, as well as the importance of outdated terms being removed from everyday vocabulary.
Fears about saying the wrong thing has created unnecessary barriers between disabled and non-disabled people. Two in five (40%) non-disabled people surveyed stated they would be more likely to interact with disabled people if they knew the correct words to use.
Leonard Cheshire says the findings underline the need for more education and greater awareness about the role language plays in creating a more inclusive society. The charity works with companies, a wide range of organisations and schools to promote inclusive environments.
The research and rap form part of Leonard Cheshire’s ongoing ‘Possibility with Disability’ campaign, which aims to dismiss misconceptions about disabled people, encouraging the UK to think differently about disabilities and support the full inclusion of disabled people in society. The campaign recognises that it is not an individual’s disability which holds them back, but often the passive and active behaviours or attitudes of others.
Ruth Owen OBE, CEO of Leonard Cheshire, said:
“Words matter. While these statistics are disappointing, they are a true reflection of what disabled people face on a daily basis. Sadly, sometimes language is explicitly used to cause offence. However, in many cases inappropriate words are used unintentionally by non-disabled people for sheer lack of knowledge.
"By teaming up with Kray-Z Legz we are on a mission to raise awareness of this important issue, get people talking and thinking. Everyone benefits from a more inclusive society where disabled people can thrive and their potential realised. No one should feel uncomfortable or excluded in a school or workplace because of the language used by others.”
Kray-Z Legz, commented:
“Language is such a powerful thing and it can be very degrading. I have personally been bullied, stared at and spoken to like a child, I can't count the times somebody has used offensive words to describe me, even though they are being genuinely curious and friendly.
"I wanted to be involved in the Possibility with Disability campaign as it is so important, and I personally feel the topic is long overdue discussion. The simple answer is to get people talking, thinking and educated on the correct language to use and I hope the Language of Disability rap helps encourage that.”
Leonard Cheshire is calling on society to take a stand on disability and play an active role in the ongoing conversations around language and the modernising of outdated terms.
Notes to Editors
Research commissioned by Leonard Cheshire and Censuswide was conducted in March 2021. 2,446 adult respondents were involved in total – this was made up of 1,010 disabled people and 1,436 non-disabled people.
Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society.
- Over 1 in 5 (23%) disabled people say they have experienced overtly defamatory language aimed at them from non-disabled strangers in a public place.
- Nearly half (46%) of disabled people feel regularly over-looked by non-disabled people through discomfort about using correct language.
- Two thirds of disabled people say disability language is outdated.
- Nearly three quarters (73%) of disabled people say more needs to be done for non-disabled people to understand what causes offence when discussing disability.
- Over one in 10 (12%) disabled people have to correct misuse of language around disability 4-6 days every week.
- Incorrect language towards disabled people is leaving a third (33%) of disabled people feeling frustrated.
- 65% of non-disabled people feel confident using the correct language when addressing disabled people, yet 1 in 10 disabled people have to correct non-disabled people’s language a shocking 4-6 days per week.
- 30% of non-disabled people are worried about saying the wrong thing when talking to disabled people.
- A huge 2 in 5 (40%) non-disabled people say they’re more likely to interact with disabled people if they knew the right language to use.
Further research stats are also available on request that include figure breakdowns in relation to gender, age, region and disability.
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About Kray-Z Legz
Hailing from Glastonbury, Kray-Z Legz (real name Mark Humphries) released his first EP in 2013. He has collaborated with global superstars like Snoop Dogg, previously supporting Coolio.
Born with spina bifida, a defect that causes a fault in the development of the spine and spinal cord, the rapper is a permanent wheelchair user, and has undergone 31 operations throughout his life.