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Unit for Stigma Research


Sharing initiatives and insights


Launch of a new UNDP/UN Women joint project: Addressing stigma and discrimination experienced by women with disabilities (ASDWD)

By Katrina Scior, on 3 December 2021

On International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2021, we are delighted to announce our new partnership with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women, as well as in-country partners and stakeholders on this  important project.

What is the project about?

Prejudices and stereotypes hold many of us back from fulfilling our potential and leading lives as free and equal citizens.  People with disabilities struggle to get equal access to education, healthcare, jobs and housing, because those prejudices and stereotypes lower expectations for them. Many see them as objects of pity or charity, some see their predicament as punishment for ‘bad karma’ in a previous life, or a shame to be kept out of sight.

Twenty percent of women in the world have some form of disability. Women and girls with disabilities face multiple barriers related to stigma, and discrimination, which hinders their progress. Such blatant exclusion hampers the achievement of the Leave No One Behind (LNOB) agenda, a cornerstone of Agenda 2030.  This is very much at the heart of UN Secretary General’s report on Our Common Agenda (also UNGA Resolution on this adopted on 17th November 2021). Read the rest of this entry »

My expert witness statement in support of the High Court legal challenge by Heidi Crowter and Máire Lea-Wilson | by Katrina Scior

By Katrina Scior, on 28 September 2021

In response to the disappointing judgment by Lord Justice Singh and Mrs Justice Lieven in the UK High Court in the case brought by Heidi Crowter and Máire Lea-Wilson against the UK Government, I have decided to make my expert witness statement (written in support of their case) public. The judges rejected Jason Coppel QC’s argument (based in part on my evidence) that institutional stigma such as that inherent in section 1(1)(d)of the 1967 Abortion Act has a powerful role to play in either countering or promoting and maintaining negative stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination (experienced by people with Down’s Syndrome and learning disabilities resulting from other causes). They also rejected evidence by Professor Richard Hastings on the negative impacts of such stigma upon persons with Down’s Syndrome. The judges concluded that s.1(1)(d) does not perpetuate and reinforce negative stereotypes to the detriment of people with disabilities. They also rejected the suggestion that there is any causal connection between this legislative provision and discrimination that continues to be experienced by people with Down’s Syndrome – something Heidi Crowter and Máire Lea-Wilson know from first-hand experience (and researchers like myself from scientific evidence) to be blatantly not true.

Read the rest of this entry »

Living through Austerity with a Learning Disability | by Neil Carpenter

By m.osborne, on 16 August 2021

In recent years, the impact of austerity on people with disabilities has been largely overlooked by the mainstream media. There are exceptions: Frances Ryan, for example, has highlighted how people with disabilities have been disproportionately affected. Little, however, has been written about austerity’s impact on people with a learning disability. Read the rest of this entry »

Now recruiting participants to help us learn more about wellbeing and self- esteem in people with learning disabilities

By m.osborne, on 2 August 2021

The concept of wellbeing has gained increasing interest over the years. The World Health Organisation defines wellbeing as a state ‘which allows individuals to realise their abilities, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and make a contribution to their community’.

Read the rest of this entry »

A rose by any other name would smell…of stigma (or, the psychologically important difference between being a “person with autism” or an Autistic person) by Dr Chloe Farahar

By m.osborne, on 25 June 2021

Dr Chloe Farahar | University of Kent | Aucademy.co.uk | SoYoureAutistic.com

Dr Chloe Farahar photograph: close-up of a white woman with a shaved head, wearing purple glasses, looking into the camera

This blog has been distilled into an animation of less than 15 mins on the Aucademy YouTube channel.

Is identifying with social groups beneficial to people’s health and wellbeing?  Whilst marking undergrad essays on this question back in 2020 – my mind began to wander, as it is prone to do, to Autistic things.  Although my PhD was in the field of social psychology – attempting to reduce mental health stigma with the neurodiversity narrative – I had become so engrossed in my little sliver of the field I forgot about other social psychological theories and approaches.  I researched the references my students were citing and made a short Twitter thread of my thoughts regarding the psychologically important difference between being a “person with autism” and an Autistic person. The difference between belonging to a stigmatised group, and the social cure properties of strongly identifying with an Autistic identity. In this blog I will expand on that Twitter thread, there are some important concepts that I won’t explain here, but you can link to this glossary. These issues have also been expanded in an invited chapter for the Routledge Handbook of Critical Autism Studies, titled: Autistic identity, culture, community, & space for wellbeing, due to be published September 2022).

Read the rest of this entry »

What’s so new about being in lockdown? | By Paul Richards, Director of Stay Up Late

By m.osborne, on 21 May 2021

Reflections on some of the current issues affecting people with learning disabilities and their far-reaching implications.


Information and advice

At the beginning of the first lockdown I was thinking about ‘Grant’ who lives near me. Grant has a learning disability and autism and lives with his elderly mother. Usually he spends a lot of his time walking around town, going to cafes. He is a well-known (and loved) character locally. I’m always running into him in all sorts of places around the city. I think he gets some sort of support but he and his mum aren’t online and don’t have much access to various local services for people with learning disabilities.

The first lockdown must have been an utterly bewildering event for him. It was for me I know but I at least had access to lots of information, a team and friends and family who I could share things with.

I often wondered what Grant made of the first lockdown when everything suddenly changed. At the start of the first lockdown it was confusing to find clear and simple information. My inbox bulged with information and guides and updates – and more updates, and easy read guides,  then easier to read guides came along –  there was too much being produced!!

What I really wanted was one place where we could access clear and concise guidance. The sort of information that I would have been able to share with Grant.

Read the rest of this entry »

Stop MPs stigmatising people living in poverty

By Katrina Scior, on 31 October 2020


We as one of the UK’s leading research centres on stigma have started a petition calling on Government to introduce mandatory training for Members of Parliament (MPs) to help them understand what it’s like to be hard up and stop stigmatising people living in poverty. #Stopstigmatisingpoverty calls on the UK Government to introduce mandatory training for MPs, a week during which they are relieved of their parliamentary duties.  The ‘training’ would see each newly elected and all sitting MPs spend 1 week living alongside people in their constituency who are struggling to get by, on the equivalent of universal credit (around £95 at current rates). Members of the local constituency will lay on a programme of events to allow the MP an insight into some of the diverse concerns and stresses their constituents face, with a focus on those living in poverty.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Covid-19 pandemic and people with learning disabilities: Celia and Adrian’s story | By Michaela Osborne and Celia and Adrian Brown

By m.osborne, on 13 October 2020

Video call with Adrian and Celia

Celia Brown (top left), Michaela Osborne and Adrian Brown

Please scroll to the bottom for an Easyread version

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused the UK population to live in uncertainty, fear and isolation. A national and global emergency brings with it new challenges, but for people with learning disabilities, many of these challenges already exist as a result of unequal access to health, social care and education. A system that does not meet the needs of people with learning disabilities before a pandemic, is not well placed to meet them in the event of one.

The experiences of two self-advocates with learning disabilities, Adrian and Celia Brown, husband and wife, illustrate just this. Adrian and Celia shared their Covid-19- related story after coming through the other side safe and well. Read the rest of this entry »

Dehumanisation captured on the BBC: A Response | by Dan Goodley (iHuman) and Katrina Scior (UCLUS)

By Katrina Scior, on 23 May 2019

We are appalled at the BBC Panorama programme that was broadcast last night. Again, we are told stories of the violent abuse of people with learning disabilities. We share the feelings of disgust voiced on social media towards the individuals who enacted such horrendous acts against people described as ‘vulnerable’ in the programme. Yet, at the same time, we want to vent our spleens at the systemic violence inherent within our education, social care and health systems that reflect a wider dehumanisation of people with learning disabilities. We are not wanting to let care providers nor workers off the hook. But, we do want to highlight the ways in which we – as a society – that is * all of us * are complicit in the dehumanisation of people with learning disabilities. Savage cuts to services, the loss of policy debate in the stagnating pool that is Brexit, toothless legislation, rampant individualism, and keyboard warriors that seek easy answers to endemic problems: all of these problems need to be addressed. We need a radical overhaul of how we as a society understand people with learning disabilities.

We also want to reiterate what we’ve said elsewhere – making the voice of people with learning disabilities central to the debates that follow the post-Panorama outcry is a must and not an optional extra. Where on earth were the commentators with learning disabilities and autism sat in front of a laptop or stood in front of a big screen, invited to share their reaction? We personally know many self-advocates would have done a great job at this and shared their anger and disgust. We really, really hope their absence wasn’t the result of experts advising the BBC that this would be too traumatic for people with learning disabilities rather than offering to prepare them for an appearance. In any case, the decision to only show them being abused but not as people who should comment is powerful evidence of profound disablism in our society. It is a clear indication of deeply held beliefs in our society that people with learning disabilities cannot speak for themselves.

Dan Goodley is Professor of Disability Studies and Education at the University of Sheffield

The shocking case of Whorlton Hall or How has this been allowed to happen again? | by Katrina Scior

By Katrina Scior, on 22 May 2019

This evening yet another BBC Panorama programme was screened featuring undercover footage of people with learning disabilities being victimised and abused by those tasked with caring for them. Like many in the learning disability ‘community’, I watched with a sense of shock and despair as a whole number of care staff again and again taunted and assaulted the people in their care, apparently for their own entertainment. We were here before, when in May 2011 another Panorama programme showed adults with learning disabilities and autism being demeaned, repeatedly abused and assaulted at Winterbourne View. After said programme, there was a public outcry and the government held an enquiry, chaired by Sir Stephen Bubb, that led to the Transforming Care programme. A huge amount of work has gone into Transforming Care, aimed to achieve better lives for people with learning disabilities and to reduce the risk of infringements against their most fundamental human rights by those on whom they are dependent for daily support. Following a high-profile court case, six care workers were given prison terms for what the judge called “cruel, callous and degrading” abuse of the individuals in their care. So how is it possible that we are here again? Without providing an exhaustive list of the many complex reasons, in this blog I want to touch on a few. Read the rest of this entry »