The use of negative language to describe disabled people has once again been challenged. This time it is Baroness Jane Campbell who has called for an end to the term ‘vulnerable’.
In an article in the Disability News Service (DNS) Jane said the term had been used repeatedly to describe disabled people during the “worst times” of the pandemic crisis.
But she said that many disabled people placed in the category of “vulnerable” or those who were told they needed to “shield” – as she has – had been forced instead to campaign for their basic human rights throughout the pandemic because the concept of “vulnerability… simply serves to anonymise our humanity and human rights”.
She pointed to the use of Care Act easements under the Coronavirus Act that led to disabled people losing vital care and support; the use of “frailty scoring” to prioritise ventilation and intensive care treatment; and GPs “ringing around asking the vulnerable if they wanted to consider a DNR on their notes”.
She said: “It began to feel like there was only a very short walk from being one of the ‘vulnerables’ to the chilling club of the ‘expendables’.”
She added: “It certainly didn’t feel like we were sheltered. Far worse.
“We were definitely not sheltered from the worst effects, with more than 13,000 older and disabled people having died from COVID-19 in care homes across England.”
She said the term “vulnerable people” made her feel “uneasy”, “exasperated” and “wounded” because it conjured up “weakness, victimhood and a cry for others to take responsibility for us”.
Baroness Campbell said “vulnerable” was used instead of words such as “human rights”, “equality” and “service entitlement to those who need them”.
She demanded that local councils and central government stop using the word “vulnerable” to describe disabled people.
“As of today, we (should) rid ourselves of the term ‘vulnerability’.”