Disability abuse- ignored and condoned. Have we learnt nothing from the Deaths of the Pilkingtons?

This week we saw two very different attitudes to comments that are offensive and the response by the media. Sharron Davies had her routine on Dancing on Ice referred to as being like “faecal matter that won’t flush”. A public apology follows from judge Jason Gardiner and lots of reports in the press with Sharron Davies questioning Jason Gardiner’s fitness to foster children.

On Big Brother’s Big Mouth, Vinnie Jones describes Davina McCalls’ walk as being like a “retard” then gets up and demonstrates what he means. Awful. Complaints will follow.Jones will be forced to publicly apologise for his vile behaviour using the same word and gestures that were used against Fiona Pilkington and her disabled daughter which drove them to their deaths. Davina will lose her contracts and probably be removed from Comic Relief which sponsors projects for disabled people for her blatant disablism.

Sadly no.

The audience laughed as did Davina who then repeated the word.

No action was taken.

No apology made. 

The programme makers have actually posted the programme complete with the offensive comments on 4 On Demand. You can view it now.

My own press release calling for a public apology from Jones supported by MENCAP  includes a quote from their spokesman who is disabled. I sent it to many media outlets including most of the National Press. It has been ignored.

I expected the response to be exactly the same as to the racist comments of a few years ago on Celebrity Big Brother.


It appears that making comments that are disablist in nature is OK. It is condoned. Raising objections are simply ignored.

Fiona Pilkington and her daughter died because they were hounded exactly this type of abuse. Fiona Pilkington felt hopeless, helpless and that no-one cared.

The inquiry led to press and public horror that they had suffered for so long without protection. Yet casually, routinely, disability abuse happens everyday. When a national broadcaster allows this behaviour to go unchallenged they are saying that it’s ok. Young people will watch Vinnie Jones and Davina McCall and copy what they do.

Fiona Pilkington and Francecca deserve to be remembered. If we forget them and condone this behaviour they have died in vain.

I promise, I won’t forget you.



  1. Maria G Zedda

    Well done Nicky,


    your comments are spot on: the broadcaster involved have certainly taken great steps into encouraging greater awareness of disability but all that work is in vain when abusive and discriminating language is allowed to fester and poison public opinion against those who are the most vulnerable. They should apologise publicly.

    Keep up the good work!



  2. Nicky Clark

    I agree tat language is a highly subjective thing but the link between hateful language and hate crime is well established. Ultimately Celebrities need to realise that disablism is as offensive as racism. The casual use of the offensive term “retard”  by celebrities who then boost their public profile by being involved in projects such as Sports Relief (which sponsors projects for people with disabilities) sends a message that this form of bigotry is ok. It isn’t.The special Olympics is joining with a worldwide campaign calling for the term to be banned. The campaign recognises the link between the word as a term of abuse and hate crime. This is well established and documented. Words are just words but like racist slurs the  hateful terms levelled against disabled people generate effects that last a life time.

  3. Leah Cartoonist

    My child was recently called a ‘nonce’ by someone (she’s 7) the adult is 37. I asked him if he knew what a nonce was and he said ‘no actually’.

    Basically people use words they don’t properly understand mainly due to ignorance and lack of education.

    Sadly the word ‘retard’ has become urban diction for ‘stupid’ and I hear it used all the time.

    It is thus a word we should asign to the street and stop using it in reference to any kind of disability.

    Meanwhile banning the word ‘retard’ would only mean that those that like telling people they’re stupid for whatever reason continue to do so, except the word they will use will be ‘stupid’.

    It’s no better than ‘retard’ in that regard.

    Some people call names. Not nice but it’s also a fact of life and the only way around it is to educate children not to do it and hope their parents follow suit!

    By asking Davina and Vinny to apologise for using the word ‘retard’ we’re saying that this word is acceptable to use when reffering specifically to disabled people rather than the opposite.

    Far better to simply slap their wrists and remind them it’s not PC!


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