Marc Quinn, 1964–

September 24, 2017 by richard

Marc Quinn, a contemporary artist and sculpture, works arises from a deep fascination with existence. The materials are both form and content in which he uses art history to investigate and expand and broaden our thinking about the essence of being human. In this journey he has shown himself to be inclusive in his choice of subject matter focusing often in interesting and revealing ways on subject matter that many artists would rather ignore often focusing on disabled people.

For example, as a recovering alcoholism Marc produced etchings and then lead cast sculpture of emotional detoxification in the Seven Deadly Sins (1994) -anger, avarice, envy, gluttony, lust, pride and sloth. The body parts used were molds of his own body.

Emotional Detox Seven Deadly Sins 1994


Works such as the above compel viewers to think, confronting them with their own ideas about beauty and ugliness, life and death, art and science, normal and abnormal. Quinn in much of his work studies his own body as a point of departure. So in Self he made a portrait head of five litres of his own frozen blood making the vulnerability of existence palpable.

Head filled blood front

In 1997 in his Shit Paintings Quinn again challenged the viewer ‘It is absurd that through culture people become alienated from something of themselves or a function of themselves.’

The paintings were prepared treated and covered to not smell.

Shit painting 1997Shit head 1997

In 1997 -1999 Nervous Breakdown feature  casts of the artist’s head covered in thick layers of rubber almost hidden behind a mask of rubber, impaled on a stake-a horrific effect.

mustard use (1 of 1)-2Scarlet Nervous breakdown 1997


In the late 1990’s Quinn’s work took a turn focusing on other people. This took two directions, one focusing on flowers and the other on bodies. Walking through a museum and seeing all the ancient sculptures with parts missing he wondered how people would react to living human beings whose bodies had the same for. This lead to the series Complete Marbles (1999-20001). Quinn sought models who from birth or after an accident lacked one or more limbs. He made casts of them and then had Italian craftspeople produce sculptures in dazzling white marble in the classic tradition.

Alexandra Westmoquette 2000

Alexander Westmoquette

Stuart Penn Victoria and Albert 1-London 2000


Stuart Penn 2000 Victoria and Albert Museum,, London

marc quinn peter hull 2000Tom Yendell 2000


Peter Hull    Tom Yendell

Alison Lapper and Parys 2000Kiss 3 Marc Quinn


Alison Lapper and Parys                                                  The Kiss

This series culminated in Marc Quinn’s design for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square being accepted and causing much controversy.

Marc Quinn Fourth PlinthAlison Lapper Prwegnant 2005

Alison Lapper Pregnant 2005. For educational activities around this installation see:-


54 foot inflatable Alison Lapper by Marc at Venice Biennali  for an appreciation of the impact of the statue see

A counter part to Complete Marbles is Chemical Life Support(2005) for which Quinn selected people, including his own son, whose lives were dependent on medicines because of a hidden impairment. Disabled people with hidden impairment are the most difficult conditions  to portray but making them of polymer wax that looks like skin all the statues are lying on the ground in sleeping postures.

Innoscience 2004

Marc’s son had severe allergy to dairy products, which after three he was ‘Free’ of.

Chemical Life support 2005



Kate Hodgkinson-Acidal D£-Ferrous Sulphate-Methotrexate Plaquenil- Prednisolone (Lupus)

Carl Whittaker-Amiodarone–Asprin-Cicosporin (Heart Transplant)

Silvia Petretti-Sustiva-Tenofivir-3TC (HIV)

Nicholas Grogan-Insulin (Diabetes)

In Mirrors for the Blind (2005) ‘ I made portrait heads of  Anna Cannings and Bill Waltier, who had both been blind from birth. When they touched their portraits it was the first time they had ‘seen’ themselves in the way they see others with touch.’

Mirrors for the Blind MarkWaltier 2005Mirrors for the Blind Anne Cannings 2005

‘ I came across an etching in an C18th medical text book of the skeleton of Marc Cazotte who had Phocomelia, a genetic mutation condition, which can be caused by chemicals such as thalidomide. The human skeleton is such an archetypal image that to see it configured differently has a very strong effect and seems to question the idea of a ‘normal body’ in a new way.’ This relates very strongly to my marble portraits, some of which are also Phocometic persons.

Portrait of Marc Cazotte 1757-1801_2006 1


Marc Quinn Recent Works 2006 Nai Publishers: Groningeen Museum

Marc Quinn Fourth Plinth , 2006 Steidmack: Germany




Lord Byron, 1788 – 1824

September 20, 2017 by richard

Lord Byron

by Ellen Castelow

‘Mad, bad and dangerous to know’. That is how Lady Caroline Lamb described her lover George Gordon Noel, sixth Baron Byron and one of the greatest Romantic poets in English literature.

As famous for his scandalous private life as for his work, Byron was born on 22nd January 1788 in London and inherited the title Baron Byron from his great uncle at the age of 10.

He endured a chaotic childhood in Aberdeen, brought up by his schizophrenic mother and an abusive nurse. These experiences, plus the fact that he was born with a club foot, may have had something to do with his constant need to be loved, expressed through his many affairs with both men and women.

Lord Byron

He was educated at Harrow School and Trinity College, Cambridge. It was at Harrow that he experienced his first love affairs with both sexes. In 1803 at the age of 15 he fell madly in love with his cousin, Mary Chaworth, who did not return his feelings. This unrequited passion was the basis for his works ‘Hills of Annesley’ and ‘The Adieu’.

Whilst at Trinity he experimented with love, discovered politics and fell into debt (his mother said he had a “reckless disregard for money”). When he turned 21 he took up his seat in the House of Lords; however the restless Byron left England the following year for a two-year European tour with his great friend, John Cam Hobhouse. He visited Greece for the first time and fell in love with both the country and the people. Byron arrived back in England in 1811 just as his mother died. Whilst on tour he had begun work on the poem ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’, a partly autobiographical account of a young man’s travels abroad. The first part of the work was published to great acclaim. Byron became famous overnight and was much sought after in Regency London society. His celebrity was such his future wife Annabella Milbanke called it ‘Byromania’.

In 1812, Byron embarked on a affair with the passionate, eccentric – and married – Lady Caroline Lamb. The scandal shocked the British public. He also had affairs with Lady Oxford, Lady Frances Webster and also, very probably, with his married half-sister, Augusta Leigh.

In 1814 Augusta gave birth to a daughter. The child took her father’s surname of Leigh but gossip was rife that the baby girl’s father was in fact Byron. Perhaps in an attempt to recover his reputation, the following year Byron married Annabella Milbanke, with whom he had a daughter Augusta Ada. Because of Byron’s many affairs, the rumours of his bisexuality (homosexuality was illegal at this time) and the scandal surrounding his relationship with Augusta, the couple separated shortly after the birth of their child.

Lady Byron
Annabella, Lady Byron

In April 1816 Byron fled England, leaving behind a failed marriage, notorious affairs and mounting debts. He spent that summer at Lake Geneva with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, his wife Mary and Mary’s half sister Claire Clairmont, with whom Byron had had an affair whilst in London. Claire was an attractive, lively and voluptuous brunette and the couple rekindled their affair in Italy. In 1817 she returned to London and gave birth to their their daughter, Allegra.

Byron travelled on to Italy. In Venice he had more affairs, with Marianna Segati, his landlord’s wife and Margarita Cogni, wife of a Venetian baker.

The sale of Newstead Abbey for £94,500 in the autumn of 1818 cleared Byron’s debts and left him with a generous income.

By now, Byron’s life of debauchery had aged him well beyond his years. However in 1819, he began an affair with the Countess Teresa Guiccioli, only 19 years old and married to a man nearly three times her age. The two became inseparable; Byron moved in with her in 1820.

Teresa Guiccioli
Teresa Guiccioli

It was during this period in Italy that Byron wrote some of his most famous works, including ‘Beppo’, ‘The Prophecy of Dante’ and the satiric poem ‘Don Juan’, which he never finished.

By now Byron’s daughter Augusta had arrived in Italy, sent by her mother Annabella to be with her father. Byron sent her away to be educated at a convent near Ravenna, where she died in April 1822. Later that same year Byron also lost his friend Shelley who died when his boat, the Don Juan, went down at sea.

His earlier travels had left Byron with a great passion for Greece. He supported the Greek war for independence from the Turks and in 1823 left Genoa to travel to Cephalonia to become involved. He spent £4000 refitting the Greek fleet and in December 1823 sailed to Messolonghi, where he took command of a Greek unit of fighters.

His health began to deteriorate and in February 1824, he fell ill. He never recovered and he died at Missolonghi on April 19th.

Death of Lord Byron

His death was mourned throughout Greece where he was revered as a national hero. His body was brought back to England to be buried in Westminster Abbey but this was refused on account of his “questionable morality”. He is buried at his ancestral home Newstead Abbey, in Nottinghamshire.

Early Graphic Illustration, Comic Strips and Disability

September 18, 2017 by richard

The history of printing goes back to the duplication of images by means of stamps in very early times. The use of round seals for rolling an impression into clay tablets goes back to early Mesopotamian civilization before 3000 BCE, they feature complex and beautiful images. In both China and Egypt, the use of small stamps for seals preceded the use of larger blocks. In China, India and Europe, printing on cloth certainly preceded printing on paper or papyrus. The process is essentially the same: in Europe special presentation impressions of prints were often printed on silk until the 17th century. The development of printing has made it possible for books, newspapers, magazines, and other reading materials to be produced in great numbers, and it plays an important role in promoting literacy and in its earlier form reinforcing religious belief and moral codes.

Printing methods where used to reproduce images and made these much more widely available. As the vast majority could not read graphic illustration using a variety of printing methods replaced manuscript hand illustrations that had been limited to monasteries and royal palaces. Artists could reproduce their work and make cultural, social and political comments. Disability features in these prints as moral tales, Bible stories and political and social comment. Disabled people show as pitiable and pathetic, triumphing over tragedy, figures of fun, a burden, penitent sinners, evil, powerless, immoral, but never as just ordinary living their lives as most people did at these times.


An early engraving in Europe is Martin Schugauer (1450-1491) in his take on St Martin of Tour. A Roman Centurion who cut his cloak to give to a disabled beggar to keep him warm. He was put to death by the Roman Army and so became a Saint. The print evokes attitudes of pity and charity. The disabled person is seen as pathetic.


Early illustrations were to show the seven deadly sins or 10 commandments. A good example is the title page of -Purgatory and the lament of Roman courtesans 1530

Title page Maestro Andreas Purgatory and lament of Roman coutyesans 1530 BM

The visual language used then moved on to narrative –telling a story in pictures usually having a moral.

An Italian transformation pint c.1600, the Dangers of love is a strong message to steer clear away from love or you will contract disease and disability and end up being taken to the mad house. This  moral tale was conveniently folded so you could keep it about your person and so when tempted take it out to refresh your resolve. Interestingly one of the only copies is in the Queen’s print collection at Windsor.



Similar story is oft repeated where disability is the reward for sin or immoral behaviour

Teunissen Rise fall of a high flying youth 1535


Teunissen Rise fall of a high flying youth 1535 where he acquires an impairment as his just deserts only to become more modest and recovers. The same German print maker shows what happens to a man who misuses his property.

Teunissen 1535 Misuse of property


A wonderful true story of an 18 year old crippled girl at Einsiedeln 1580 Swiss

The wonderful story of an 18 year old crippled girl at Einsedeln April 9th 1580 . A Miracle cure. The girl  lame from birth, is determined against all reason and advice to crawl alone many miles to the famous pilgramage  Centre of Einsieldeln in Switzerland. She crouches by the river screaming until 2. She is ferried across. She crawls on, to  the amazement of passers-by, until she meats a noble bearded man in a white gown, who marks her on the knee. 3. Healed she thanks her Benefactor, who 4. Sends her on her way. She disappears into the distance towards the shrine, still looking over her shoulder to the scene of the miraculous cure. Unknown Swiss or German Artist .



Guiseppi Maria Mitelli a century later gives us a more documentary allegory of man’s life.. 1706 You who love and esteem deceitful world, consider its promises, fruits and trickery. 1. At birth, man groans under the oppression of swaddling clothes. 2. Then, as a child, he is subject to the scourge of others. 3. As a young man, he is tyrannized by love. 4. As a grown man he labours to earn a living. 5. He is threatened and scolded by a superior. 6. There is no end to the lawsuits against him. 7. Creditors imprison him. 8.No one helps him when he is reduced to beggary. 9. Once again unjustly attacked. 10. He reaches old age full of disease. 11. He lies in painful illness and prolonged sorrow. 12. Finally he is reduced to a miserable corpse.

In another more moralistic print Mitelli gives us the unhappy Life of a prostitute divided into the twelve months of the year. Again she ends up disabled with a crutch.

Mitelli The Unhappy life of a prostitute 1691


Mitelli was kean on portraying disabled people using them to put across a moral message.Giuseppe Maria Mitelli (1634–1718) was an Italian engraver and painter of the Baroque period. He was the son of the prominent quadratura painter Agostino Mitelli. The younger Mitelli was best known for his prolific engravings, in a great variety of subjects, including scenes from grand epics to mundane page boards for games of chance using dice, Tarot cards, and an Iconophor with anthropomorphized alphabets.[1] He also engraved genre subjects, allegories, moralistic scenes, but even some bizarre cartoons that could be interpreted as sometimes provocatively subversive, or presciently revolutionary, and sometimes imaginatively bizarre.[2] He often depicted dwarfs engaged in buffoonery or satirical depictions of aphorisms, which recalls the Bambocciate di nani or arte pigmeo of genre painter Faustino Bocchi (1659–1742).

Pilgrim, Tarrot Card and Discordant Musicians.



1678 Guiseppi Mitelli Proverb FiguratiC17th Tarot Card MitelliDiscordant Musicians Mitelli


Mitelli A_life-class_in_a_grotesque_academy_of_artists;_a_hunchback_Wellcome_V0048969

An Academy of Dwarf Painters drawing a hunchback.


This last is reminiscent of the work of  Jaques Callot 1592 in Nancy ; † March 1635  .

L’Estropié a la Béquille et a La Jambe de Bois (The Cripple with a Crutch and a Wooden Leg), from Varie Figure Gobbi Jaques Callot 1616

DP818577L'Estropié a la Béquille et a La Jambe de Bois (The Cripple with a Crutch and a Wooden Leg), from Varie Figure Gobbi Jaques Callot 1616

Le Joueur de Flageolet (The Flageolet Player), from Varie Figure Gobbi, 1616-20 Jaques Callot NYM

DP818534Le Joueur de Flageolet (The Flageolet Player), from Varie Figure Gobbi, 1616-20 Jaques Callot NYM


As the Eighteen Century began. Disability was used as a metaphor for political or national weakness.

Romeyn de Hooghe(1701) Cartoon shows Louis XIV ( The Sun God who built Versailles and attacked the Protestant Dutch) as a crippled Apollo,

driven by Mme de Maintenon(his mistress) in a broken chariot over the terrestial globe, while the Dutch lion springs forward to tear down the horse.

Romeyn de Hooghe 1701 Louise XIV


Hogarth used disability as a sign of moral weakness as exemplified by the explaination by Simon Jarrett on this website.

Hogarth Plate 6 Industry and Idleness Billy in the Bowl and band

As did Cruikshank in many prints such as the the History of John Bull’s (Britain) warlike expedition (1793) or in John Bull’s Progress or

Admiral on crutches , being a comment on the Navy’s poor performance.




John Bull Criukshank 1793


gillray_johnbull progress 1793


Admiral on crutches


Similarly Rowlandson lampooned the fashionable Spa Town of Bath in as full of useless overweight and disabled aristocrats in Bath Races 1898 and 1910

bath_races-400rowlandson_the-bath-races-plate-12-from-comforts-of-bath-1798Bath Races Rowlandson 1810

In compiling this page great reliance was placed upon “The Early Comic Strip: Narrative Strips and ‘Picture Stories in the European Broadsheet from c.1450 to c.1825″ by David Kunzle , Berkley, California; University of California Press 1973


William Utermohlen, 1933–2007

September 9, 2017 by richard

William Utermohlen 1933-2007-dementia

untermohlenfotoself portrait 1967 Self Portrait 1967


Portrait of Hat 1997 (4).tif

Portrait of Hat 1997 (4).tif

American artist William Utermohlen received a diagnosis of probable Alzheimer’s disease in 1995, at the age of 61. For the next five years, as his dementia worsened, he used his art to track the disintegration of his mind. Utermohlen’s self-portraits, such as the sketches above from 1996, offer a window into the artist’s experience of the progression of Alzheimer’s. Many of the stylistic changes in the depictions are likely the result of the quick decline of Utermohlen’s visuospatial and motor skills over the course of a few short years. Yet the portraits are also heartbreaking in that they expose a mind trying against hope to understand itself despite deterioration.

20120307202835-William_Utermohlen_-_Self_Portrait__split___1977__oil__charcoal__photograph_on_gesso_on_canvas__25.5_x_20_cm Self Portrait 1977



Alzheimer’s disease begins with short-term memory disorders. Often there is therefore anger and misunderstandings with fellow human beings. Mistrust and alienation are the result. Little by little, one’s own traces of long-term memory also disappear, and memories of encounters, events, learned and beloved disappear. Things are losing their original meaning, the language is becoming more meager, the red thread is lost, the personal expressiveness diminishes, social contacts become impoverished.


The artist William Utermohlen, in his self-portraits, depicts how his ego disappears. He becomes depressed and paints grief, fear, resignation and helplessness. His perspective, his gaze on the world, is changing. Details are losing importance. Visual information can be interpreted increasingly badly. His own reflection is alien, frightened and frightened. The loss of sense of space and depth perception, as well as disorientation, is accompanied by disquiet or indifference, and sometimes by an entanglement which frightens the environment. The world disintegrates into fragments. With the diminishing communication ability, the loneliness and loneliness increase. People close to the house and familiar items are no longer recognized.

The world is losing colour. Blue and green are hardly perceived anymore, become a background colour. Only yellow and red as well as the emotional experience survive almost to the last. Thus the images of Utermohlen become more and more abstract, almost surrealistic. They evolve from a living, spatial representation to a stylized, dull representation without depth. A shadow lies over the face. Eyes and mouth are more prominent. The pictures are sad, suggesting endless suffering and pain. In the end there remains only a skeletal, colourless dashed envelope.

Some Workmen Can Blame Their Tools: Artistic Change in an Individual with Alzheimer’s Disease. Sebastian J. Crutch et al. in Lancet, Vol. 357, pages 2129–2133; June 30, 2001.

James Castle, 1899–1977

September 8, 2017 by richard

James Castle 1899-1977 Profoundly Deaf USA  Artist

James Castle was born September 25, 1899, in the small mountain town of Garden Valley, Idaho to Francis J. Castle and Mary Nora Scanlon. The fifth of seven children, Castle was born two months premature.  His mother was the local midwife and his father was the postmaster and ran the community post office and general store from the living room of the family home.

Castle was profoundly deaf from birth and did not attend school until he was ten years old, when he was enrolled at the Gooding School for the Deaf and Blind in southeastern Idaho.  Castle attended and lived at the school for five years, from 1910-1915.

While at the school, Castle was taught the oral method of communication—sign language was not taught in the public schools at the time—but it is likely he learned sign from the other students who secretly taught each other. Evident in his artwork are various references to specific signs. It is unknown to what extent Castle could read, though his artwork does demonstrate a fascination with written language. Any practical method of communication Castle may have learned at school was lost over the years because it was not practiced at home by his family.

With the exception of his tenure at the Gooding School, Castle resided in only three homes in Idaho: in the small town of Star, and on subsistence farms in Garden Valley and Boise. When Castle’s mother died in the 1930s, his sister Agnes inherited the family farm in Boise where Castle continued to live with his sister, brother-in-law and their four children in the small three-bedroom house.

Image > soot and spit on found paper

Art Practice

At a very early age Castle began drawing and making things with found materials. Throughout Castle’s lifetime, nearly everything that crossed his path inspired or influenced him. His daily ritual included checking all the trash containers in the home and throughout the immediate neighborhood. His discoveries became the materials from which he made his art, as well as fodder for his voracious visual memory. Depending entirely on his ingenuity, Castle fashioned materials such as sticks, apricot pits and broken fountain-pen nibs into tools he could use to create. He discovered he could scrape soot from the wood-burning stove and spit into the powdery substance to mix a black ink suited for his diverse imagery. He often derived color by squeezing pigment from saturated crepe paper. Family members gave him store-bought art materials such as oil sticks and watercolors, and he incorporated these new materials into his own self-made concoctions to produce the many subtle textures and colors found in his work.

Image > soot with artist tools



In the 1950s, Castle’s nephew, Bob Beach, came home on a break from the Museum Art School in Portland, Oregon.  Beach suggested to family members that Castle’s drawings, handmade books and constructions could be called “art.” Beach was allowed to take some of his uncle’s drawings back to the Portland art school to show his professors. This introduction launched the beginning of Castle’s recognition as an artist in regional museums and art galleries.  Castle’s work quickly became the subject of one-person and group exhibitions throughout the Pacific Northwest from the 1960s until his death in 1977.  Overwhelmed by the continued interest in his work, his family denied access to the collection for the next twenty years.

In 1998, Castle’s work was again introduced to the public at the Outsider Art Fair in New York City.  Museum and gallery exhibitions soon followed throughout the US.  Major museums acquired Castle’s work for their permanent collections, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art opened James Castle: A Retrospective in 2008.  The 2013 Venice Biennale included eleven works by Castle in the feature exhibition The Encyclopedic Palace.

James Castle explored a myriad of concepts and ideas within his work during an art practice that spanned nearly 70 years. Featured in this gallery is a selection of the many genres included in his oeuvre.


Rural Life  1CAS09-0371-1-img


Doors and Windows






Houses            james-castle-artwork-patterns




Gooding School4CAS11-0271-1-img Copyright

Riva Lehrer, 1958–

July 12, 2017 by richard

Riva Lehrer (b. Cincinnati 1958). Artist, writer and curator, whose work focuses on issues of physical identity and the socially challenged body, especially in explorations of cultural depictions of disability.

Ms. Lehrer’s art work has been seen in venues including the United Nations, the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC, the Arnot Museum, the DeCordova Museum, the Frye Museum, the Smithsonian Museum, the Chicago Cultural Center, the State of Illinois Museum, and the Elmhurst Museum.  She has been a visiting artist and lecturer across the US and Europe.

Her work has been featured in a number of documentaries, including the 2012 film “The Paper Mirror”, with graphic novelist Alison Bechdel,by Charissa King-O’Brien; the 2005 documentary “Self Preservation: The Art of Riva Lehrer” by David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder; “Variations” by Laurie Little and Anuradha Rana; and “Code of the Freaks” by Salome Chasnoff, Carrie Sandahl, and Susan Nussbaum (in progress).

Awards include the 2014 Mellon Residency Fellowship at Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges; the 2015 Three Arts Residency Fellowship at the University of Illinois, the 2009 Prairie Fellowship at the Ragdale Foundation and 2009 the Critical Fierceness Grant, the 2008 Three Arts Foundation of Chicago grant for artistic achievement, and the 2006 Wynn Newhouse Award for Excellence, based in New York City, an unrestricted grant for $50,000.  Other awards include those from the Illinois Arts Council, the University of Illinois and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Ms. Lehrer’s writing and visual art are included in numerous publications, including “Criptiques”, May Day Press, edited by Caitlin Wood, 2014, and “Sex and Disability”, Duke University Press, edited by Robert McRuer and Anna Mollow, 2011.

Riva Lehrer is instructor in Medical Humanities at Northwestern University.

Frida Kahlo, 1907–1954

March 16, 2017 by richard

Frida Kahlo.  download

International Day of Disabled People

November 20, 2016 by admin

International Day of Disabled People – 3rd December – is a key date every year in celebrating the lives and achievements of disabled people around the world. Disability Action in Islington (DAI), Islington Personal Budgets Network (IPBN) & Islington Disabled People Against Cuts (IDPAC) will be coming together to run a stall in Chapel Market, Angel N1, on International Day; and we would like to invite you to join us.

On the day, we will be:

  • Interviewing local disabled people, compiling our story of what it means to be disabled in the 21st century
  • Sharing information, knowledge & resources around local services, organisations and campaigns
    Building a snapshot of local issues
  • Building a network to develop local campaigns around these issues
  • Raising funds for local campaigns through selling DPAC merchandise
  • Offering Festive Refreshments

If you would like to volunteer your support, please let us know as soon as possible by emailing Andy Greene on:

A-Z Offensive disablist language and origins

July 7, 2016 by richard

July 7, 2016 by Richard Rieser

A to Z of Offensive Disablist Language

ORIGIN: Suggests that higher force has cast the person down (‘affligere’ is Latin for to knock
down, to weaken), or is causing them pain or suffering. Use ‘impairment’ or disabled people depending on the context.

ORIGIN: This word comes from Old English crypel or creopel, both related to the verb ‘to creep’. These, in turn, come from old (Middle) German ‘kripple’ meaning to be without power. The word is extremely offensive. Use person who has / person with….

Dumb or Dumbo
ORIGIN: a) Not to be able to speak. b) These words have come to mean lacking intelligence but people can communicate in different ways not just talking.

ORIGIN: Dwarf is used to describe short people or short stature, through folklore and common usage it has negative connotations.

ORIGIN: The word feeble comes from old French meaning ‘lacking strength’. It’s meaning was formalised in the Mental Deficiency Act 1913, to mean not an extremely pronounced mental deficiency, but one still requiring care, supervision and control.Use person with learning difficulty

ORIGIN: Associated with freak show where people who were very small, tall, large or with other visible differences or impairments were put on display for the public gaze in 17th, 18th and 19th century. It means strange or abnormal. This should not be used.


ORIGIN: Having an imposed disadvantage. The word may have several origins:
a) from horse races round the streets of Italian City States, such as Sienna, where really good riders had to ride one-handed, holding their hat in their other hand to make the race more equal.

b) by association with penitent sinners (often disabled people) in many parts of Europe who were forced into begging to survive and had to go up to people ‘cap in hand’.

ORIGIN: Coming from Old English lama Old German lahm and Old Norse lami meaning crippled, paralytic or weak. In Middle English came to mean ‘crippled’ in hands or feet. Lame duck is also used to mean any disabled person or thing or lame brain meaning learning difficulties. In modern slang ‘lame’ is used for someone or something that is un-cool, boring, not exciting, not funny, weak, annoying, inadequate or a loser. In this respect ‘lame’ is used like ‘gay’ and should be challenged. It is offensive.

ORIGIN: The word dates from the 13th century and comes from the Latin word idiota, meaning ‘ignorant person’. Again, it featured in the Mental Deficiency Act 1913 (see Feebleminded), where it meant someone who was so mentally deficient that they should be detained for the whole of their lives.

ORIGIN: This word has been around since the 16th century and comes from the Latin, imbecillus, meaning ‘feeble’ (it literally meant ‘without support’ and was originally used mainly in a physical sense). It was similarly defined in the Mental Deficiency Act, as someone incapable of managing their own affairs.

ORIGIN: Literally means not valid, from Latin ‘invalidus’. In the 17th century it came to have
a specific meaning, when referring to people, who were infirm, or disabled.

Mental or nutter or crazy
ORIGIN: All these are informal (slang) and offensive words for people with mental health issues. One in four people have a major bout ofmental distress or become mental health system users. The vast majority are not dangerous. 1 in 10 of school age students are diagnosed with mental health issues at some point in their schooling. Such young people need understanding, support and counselling, not harassment and name calling. Other names used Lunatic, Loony, Insane, Weird, Weirdo, Bonkers, Psycho and Mad to be avoided.

Mentally handicapped

ORIGIN: Was and is still used to refer to people with Learning difficulties the origin of the word handicap is as above. In the UK over 150,000 people with learning difficulties were locked away in Mental Handicap Hospitals because tests showed they had low Intelligence Quotients (IQ). These tests have since been shown to be culturally biased and only to measure one small part of how the brain works. People with learning difficulties have chosen the name “people with learning difficulties” for themselves because they think that, through education, which they have largely been denied, they can improve their situation.

ORIGIN: Langdon Down was a doctor who worked at the London Hospital in Whitechapel in the 1860s. He noticed that around 1 in 800 babies was born with pronounced different features and capabilities. Their features reminded him of the Mongolian peoples. He postulated that there was a hierarchy of races (in descending order) – European, Asian,African and Mongols. Each was genetically inferior to the group above them. This was a racist theory. People with Down’s Syndrome find it extremely offensive.

ORIGIN: Moron, Greek, meaning ‘foolish, dull, sluggish’

Raspberry Ripple
ORIGIN: Cockney rhyming slang for ‘cripple’, and offensive.

ORIGIN: Still in common use in the USA for people with a learning difficulty; from the word retarded meaning held back in development – offensive.

Spazz, spazzie or spastic
ORIGIN: People with cerebral palsy are subject to muscle spasms or spasticity. These offensive words are sometimes used in reference to this. People with this impairment wish to be known as people with cerebral palsy or disabled people

ORIGIN: Stupid’ was used in America at the start 20th century ‘scientifically’ to denote ‘one deficient in judgment and sense’.

The blind; The deaf; The disabled
ORIGIN: To call any group of people ‘the’ anything is to dehumanise them. Use blind people, deaf people or disabled people.

Victim or sufferer
ORIGIN: Disabled people are not victims of their impairment because this implies they are consciously singled out for punishment by God or a higher being. Similarly, the word sufferer can imply someone upon whom something has been imposed as a punishment by a deity.

ORIGIN: Wheelchair users see their wheelchair as a means of mobility and freedom, not something that restricts them, apart from problems with lack of access.

Notes for teachers:
1. All teaching staff should understand this guidance and be able to explain to children the
history of disablist terms and appropriate language.
2. Avoid using medical labels as this may promote a view of disabled people as patients. It also implies the medical label is the over-riding characteristic, which is
3. If it is necessary to refer to a condition, it is better to say, for example, ‘a person with
epilepsy’ not an epileptic, or ‘s/he has cerebral palsy’ not a spastic.
4. The word disabled should not be used as a collective noun (for example as in ‘the disabled’).
5. Although disabled people have impairments, they are not people with disabilities.
They are disabled by outside forces. They choose to be called “Disabled People” in the UK
because of collective oppression and solidarity.

Richard Rieser World of Inclusion
A to Z of offensive disablist language

D4 Activities KS2 3 The live’s of disabled people in C16th Century

March 20, 2016 by richard

D4 Activities KS2 3 The live’s of disabled people in C16th Century
In the crowded and unhealthy cities of Elizabethan England, conditions that resulted in long term impairment were very common. The city of Norwich carried out a ‘census of the poor’ in 1570, gathering information about the lives of 1,400 of the poorest people in the city. Among them were 63 disabled men and women with ‘lameness’ or ‘crookedness’ of the arms or legs, missing limbs, blindness or deafness.

Crookedness was an early English term to describe people seen as misshapen in their bodily form. Lameness was a term meaning restricted use of one or more limbs applied to arms as well as legs.

Their lives were surprising. Although poor, many were in work; the women were spinners or knitters, while some of the ‘lame’ men were labourers. William Mordewe, a blind baker, was still working at the age of 70, aided by his young wife Helen. Almost all the disabled men and most of the disabled women were married to non-disabled people and many had children. Their marriages were stable and long-lasting (even though two disabled women were identified as ‘harlots’). Although they were often poor, disabled people were very much part of work and family life and they lived at the heart of their communities.
People we would recognise today as having learning disabilities also lived in their communities rather than in institutions. Known as ‘natural fools’, ‘innocents’ or ‘idiots’, they were expected to stay with their families and work if possible. If the families were struggling because of ill health or extreme poverty, they might receive assistance from the parish.
Activities KS2/3
1. What have you learnt about the lives of disabled people in C16th?
2. Identify five words used then to describe disabled people and use a dictionary to find the meanings.
3. Are any of these words used today? What do you think they mean?
4. Give one example of a disabled person living an ordinary life.
5. Do you think disabled people live ordinary lives today and when did they not ?
( from Simon Jarrett