Changing Labels Highvolume Play Pause Stop

Throughout most of their recent history, people with learning disabilities have been labelled and classified. This process was key to individuals ending up in institutions like Calderstones, Brockhall and the Royal Albert.

These labels have changed over time. These labels have been challenged by the people themselves, especially with the rise of People First groups in the 1980s. A central slogan being ‘Label Jars not People’. Also writers such as Goffman and Wolfensberger highlighted the stigma and oppression created by the use of negative labels. This is something still with us today, as abuse and hate crime continues to increase.

However, labelling can be used to ensure that people receive services to which they are entitled. Without labelling, it can be argued, people with learning disabilities miss out on required support and resources. They are hidden.

So both now and in the past the use of labels is a deeply contested issue. Labels can enable and disable.

If you click on the PDF below you will open a table showing the changing labels over time. This table is adapted from one which is part of educational resources made by the Open University, UK Disability History Month and the Anti-Bullying Alliance. For more information please click:


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