People with cerebral palsy can remember when SCOPE was called The Spastic Society. Now we have a culture where political correctness has overtaken and one cannot use the term 'disabled' or 'mentally handicapped' or even 'handicapped'; instead we have to use the terms 'less-abled' or 'learning difficulties'. Is this really required? Or does this just make 'normal' people feel afraid to communicate with people who have disabilities or who are from ethnic minorities?
We are now in a culture where we must tread lightly if we encounter anyone from a minority; may it be someone with a disability or someone from an ethnic minority. In my opinion this increases social isolation as people are afraid of insulting a minority. It is true that the words 'spastic' or 'retarded' should not be used, but it is the tone in which they are used that insults. I have had a lot of negative experience when I was younger when people would call me a spastic or retard, however, this was always used in a derogatory way to insult me. On the other hand, I have worked with older adults in my role as a psychologist and these people generally did not understand that the term 'spastic' was a derogatory phrase.
We are at a point in UK politics and political correctness where if a person uses the wrong terminology then the individual on the receiving end can complain to the law. My argument is that this is fundamentally wrong for any minority when the term is used in a non-derogatory way. For example, unfortunately many older adults do not understand that the term 'coloured' is a offensive name; however younger adults completely understand this term is insulting has other meanings. Older adults afraid to integrate with any kind of minority as they may offend them by calling them 'half-cast' or 'black'. At the end of the day, if we call anyone from African heritage 'afro-Caribbean' or 'African-American' this could be equally as insulting if the person is a native of Britain.
There is a need for campaigners of equality to stop getting on their hobby horse and deciding that certain terminologies for describing people with disabilities or who are of ethnic minority is wrong. Over the past 10 years, working as a psychologist, I have experienced a repeated vibe where individuals have been uncomfortable to approach me due to the fear of insulting me in some way. This situation has been enhanced by the PC culture; where certain individuals have set out to instigate animosity if an individual uses the wrong terminology accidentally. My personal point of view is that I don't care if someone refers to me as 'handicapped', 'disabled', or 'wheelchair bound' as long as they engage in social communications.
Unfortunately social minorities have become increasingly protective or over conscious about their definition. This is a fundamental flaw and leads to an increase in social isolation. Do not get me wrong, I have been in situations where I have been spoken to as if I have a learning difficulty or individuals have questioned whether I should be drinking alcohol when I am arguably intelligent (holding a PhD in cognitive neuropsychology). However, I have been out with friends and tried to strike a conversation with a stranger and it is clear that they are afraid of talking to me in case they think that they may insult me by not understanding my disability and therefore not wanting to ask my friends about my disability etc. If we did not have such an emphasis on PC and put more energy into educating the general public about disabilities and different cultures then social isolation would be decreased and social integration would increase.
Overall, we need to stop this PC culture which increases social segregation; if someone uses the wrong term when in conversation (without malice) does it really matter? Personally I would much rather someone ask 'what is wrong with you?' rather than be afraid to enter into any kind of social dialogue. It is not just people with disability who are at fault here, but it also individuals from ethnic minorities, gay or transgender who must accept that the name you are called is irrelevant if the person is just trying to communicate with you in a friendly manner. It is time that the PC culture understand this and stop putting up boundaries that might encourage an increase in social isolation for individuals who desperately require social interaction.