End the Awkward

Two thirds of Brits say they feel awkward around disabled people. Some people feel so awkward they avoid disabled people all together.

Since disabled people make up about 1 in 5 of the British population, that’s a lot of time feeling pretty uncomfortable. It’s time to put a stop to it.

End the Awkward is our campaign aimed at helping people feel more comfortable about disability. The campaign uses humour to get people thinking differently.

Awkward things to avoid when you meet a disabled person

Worried about what to say? Not sure how to act? Don’t worry, we’re here to help with these tips.

Don't

  1. Describe someone as ‘the disabled one’
    Disabled people have names like everyone else. Their impairment isn’t who they are. Ask someone their name and go from there.
  2. Ask inappropriate questions
    "Can you have sex?” is an awkward question for anyone. Disabled people often get bombarded with questions you wouldn’t ask a complete stranger.
    Start by getting to know a disabled person the same way you would anyone else. “How was your weekend?” “Rubbish weather, isn’t it?” You get it.
  3. Make assumptions
    The person you’re speaking to probably knows more about their impairment than you do. Not everyone in a wheelchair is paralysed, and not every disabled person knows sign language. Remember everyone is different and can do different things.
  4. Say “you don’t look disabled”
    People’s impairments can’t always be seen and aren’t always physical. Don’t expect disabled people to look or act a certain way.
  5. Assume people want or need your help
    You’re trying to do a good thing, but wading in and giving help isn’t always needed. Offer to help if it seems like someone would like some, but ask in what way you can help, and follow what they say. Be cool if your offer is turned down.

For more, watch our End the Awkward videos on YouTube

Talking about disability

Some disabled people may use controversial language when talking about themselves. That’s their choice, but it doesn’t mean they’d be happy for you to use it.

There are some words that many disabled people find hurtful or harsh because they:

  • suggest disabled people are helpless
  • are pitying
  • are often used abusively.

Here are some tips on language that most people prefer:

Don't say You could say

Cripple
The disabled
Sufferer

Disabled person
Person with a disability

Able-bodied
Normal person

Non-disabled person
The deaf

Deaf person
Hard of hearing person

The blind

Blind person
Visually impaired person

Midget

Person with restricted growth
Person of shorter stature

Retard
Slow
Simple
Person with a learning disability

Downs kid
Downs sufferer

Person with Down syndrome

Mental patient
Psycho
Schizo
Mental

Person with a mental health problem

Wheelchair-bound
Confined to a wheelchair

A wheelchair user

Behind the awkward

End the Awkward is a light-hearted campaign, but it addresses a serious issue. Attitudes towards disabled people are better than 20 years ago, but we still have a long way to go. 

This campaign is just one part of our wider research, policy and campaign work. We speak out against negative attitudes and campaign on all kinds of issues disabled people face.

With this campaign, we have tried to find a way to get people talking about disability and to break down some of the barriers that exist between disabled people and the general public.

Contact us

Contact the campaigns team

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