Northern Ireland

'Physically handicapped' sign angers campaigners

Handicapped sign
Image caption The sign at Limavady Health Centre has been described as 'offensive'

A disability campaigner has called on a Northern Ireland health trust to remove a sign which refers to disabled people as "physically handicapped".

Campaigner Peter Mitchell has called the sign at Limavady Health Centre "deeply offensive and wrong on so many levels".

He said there was an onus on health care providers to use more socially acceptable language.

The Western Health and Social Care Trust has promised to take action.

Mr Mitchell, a local actor and wheelchair user, said he initially thought the sign was a "wind-up".

Image caption Peter Mitchell said he thought the sign was a 'wind-up'

"The word handicapped is really offensive," he said.

"It comes from mid 17th Century when disabled people were seen as second class citizens, they literally had to beg on the streets with their cap in their hands.

"Do people look at me because I am in a wheelchair, as a second class citizen, that I have nothing to offer?"

He said there was ongoing debate among disability groups as to appropriate language, but said there was widespread agreement that the word handicapped was "wrong on so many levels".

Damon Rose from BBC Ouch said the word "embodies an old fashioned idea that if you are handicapped you have something wrong with you".

"Whereas if you are disabled people tend to think of that more as a problem people can solve by putting in ramps or accessible loos".

In a statement the Western Trust said: "We are grateful that this has been brought to our attention and will take action to rectify immediately."