Letters - 10 March 2023

From Negative terminology to Opinions and fleas

Negative terminology

I read the article ‘Out of service’ in the Friend (24 February) with interest, but soon felt saddened and frustrated by the language and terminology still being used about people with disabilities.

There are so many problems with the term ‘confined to a wheelchair’ suggesting that the person never gets out of their wheelchair; is physically tied to it. The reality is that people who use wheelchairs get out of them for a multitude of reasons – to sit on a dining chair, to get into a driver’s seat, to transfer to a cinema seat. Even people like myself who cannot walk at all still get out of our wheelchairs to bathe, to sleep and so on.

We are not confined to our wheelchairs in any way. Without my wheelchair, I would be confined. With it, I am free.

If a non-disabled person went into town each day they wouldn’t be seen as ‘trundling around at random’ but as getting out of the house and meeting others. As for going to the toilet in the Meeting house garden ‘preserving his dignity’ – no, Friends, absolutely not, we need to address the facilities in our Meeting houses. All our wheelchairs are customised, so this gentleman’s ‘bulky’ wheelchair was, no, exactly the right size for him.

In recent years Quakers have been addressing their attitudes to inequality, diversity and inclusion, yet people with disabilities have been in your midst for centuries and we mainly feel sidelined – please give us the dignity to, at least, expect the right terminology, but accessible toilets would go a long way to creating equality.

Name and address supplied


David Fish notes that we still await a response from Meeting for Sufferings on how to address bullying in Quaker Meetings (24 February).

Many organisations that we always imagined to be ‘whiter than white’ are having to acknowledge and address their own unlawful behaviours. The Society has a responsibility to do the same. Bullying in Meetings happens because it can. Our Quaker ‘closed secret organisation’, to use David Fish’s description, has nothing in place either to help prevent bullying or to address it.

It is a shocking experience when a Quaker Meeting is not a ‘safe place’, and it isn’t limited to conflicts over work. Most Quakers are ‘old, white, heterosexual and married‘. The ‘old’ age demographic on its own is particularly prone to the prejudices that give rise to bullying. Newcomers outside of the usual Quaker demographic are not necessarily welcomed by the established groups and, inevitably, cliques within Meetings.

A response/report in the Friend from Quakers in Britain on how it proposes to move forward on the problem of bullying in Meetings would be welcome.

A Friend
Name and address supplied

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