My local council (Equality Standard Level 3) produces a glossy magazine for residents. In the last issue, I was surprised to read the phrase ‘wheelchair bound’ in an article about social care. It was used by the author (a council officer) of an article on care services to describe a service user.
I alerted the Editor:
I am writing to let you know that the term ‘wheelchair bound’ (used in your June 2012 issue) for someone who uses a wheelchair is unacceptable. A wheelchair user is not ‘bound’ to their wheelchair. There are no chains or shackles binding them. A wheelchair gives freedom and mobility, allowing many people to live high quality lives.
I am not so much interested in politically correct terminology. I slip up like everyone else from time to time. But authors of articles in a council magazine (and certainly the editor) should be held to a higher standard.
A Senior Communications Officer from the council replied:
Thank-you for your comments, which are noted and will be taken on board in the future.
This article was drafted in partnership with our adult social care team and was never intended to cause any offence. Apologies if it has done so.
I thought his reply was interesting. It was certainly polite and met the target time for a response. But who mentioned anything about being offended?
It made me think about who owns this issue. Does it belong to one resident who might have been offended (I wasn’t)? Is it all about me?
Or is it the responsibility of the local authority (Equality Standard 3) to value and act on feedback from residents that helps them to use acceptable language when communicating with several hundred thousand people?
I found the reply from the Senior Communications Officer more offensive than the phrase wheelchair bound. My feedback wasn’t valued. Noted? Maybe. Valued and acted upon? I’d be surprised.