A Coventry councillor has apologised after using a term insulting to disabled people on social media.
Cllr Rachel Lancaster got into a spat on Twitter and replied to a tweet by posting: “Been licking the window again have you?”
The term “window licker” is well known for being derogatory against people with learning disabilities and is highly offensive.
Cllr Lancaster later apologised and deleted the tweet after being told it was “derogatory towards people with learning difficulties” and insists she though it meant “licking the window, like a child outside a toy shop”.
The remark has drawn strong criticism, including from the founder of a Warwickshire support group for families of children with Down Syndrome, who won the Inspirational Person award at our Coventry and Warwickshire Heroes Awards 2017.
Cllr Lancaster has since deleted the apology and claims that is because of the level of abusive comments it attracted.
It comes after four Coventry mums made a video to combat negative stereotypes which has been seen millions of times across the world.
The offensive tweet from Cllr Lancaster
Cllr Lancaster, who represents Holbrook Ward for Coventry City Council , replied to Twitter account @LiargateCovCity following a reply to a picture she uploaded of the Labour regional conference.
She was celebrating Cllr Ann Lucas receiving an award, but the Liargate account replied with ‘remove tongue’.
But instead of ignoring the comment, Cllr Lancaster hit back and asked: ‘Been licking the window again have you?’
That drew condemnation from the Liargate account, a disabled campaigner, and a mum of a teenage boy who has Down Syndrome.
Coventry and Warwickshire Heroes award winner Nicola Enoch with her son Tom
“Disappointed and annoyed”
Nicola Enoch, who founded The Ups of Downs in Warwickshire 12 years ago as a support group for families of children with Down Syndrome in Warwickshire, said Cllr Lancaster’s remark was derogatory.
She said: “As the parent of a young man with Down syndrome, who spent yesterday celebrating World Down syndrome day, I am very disappointed and indeed annoyed to learn of a councillor using such a derogatory term.
“At The Ups of Downs we endeavour to educate and inform people about how important language is and how ignorant comments perpetuate outdated perceptions of people with learning disabilities.”
“Disability is still far behind”
Disabled campaigner Simon Stevens, said: “I think it shows that unlike the recent realisation of gender issues, disability is still far behind.
“Far too often on Twitter people use mental health and insults when they can’t give an intelligence answer.
“I immediately DM’d Rachel to seek her side and as a result she issued an apology she later retracted.
“Then she questioned how I could possibly be a Tory considering ‘what they done to disabled people’, a remark I found offensive as the government remarks are supporting people to get back to work, not stay ‘on the scrap heap’ as Labour wants.. this control of identity politics is unhelpful.”
What Cllr Lancaster said
“I had posted on twitter a photograph of Cllr Ann Lucas receiving an award for her national, regional and local work, particularly apt as it was international women’s day.
“The response from Liargate on twitter was “remove tongue” a spiteful, jealous comment.
“I asked Liargate if he had been licking the window, like a child outside a toy or sweet shop wanting what was inside.
“Once I was alerted to the use of the term as something derogatory towards people with learning difficulties I removed my posts and posted a full apology, I had absolutely no idea the term was used in this way.
“I had to subsequently remove the apology due to hideously abusive comments both on twitter and facebook.
“Interestingly other than on social media I have only come across four people who knew the term was derogatory, my husband who had worked with people with both physical and learning disabilities for the last 32 years had no knowledge of the term either.
“I wonder if its a generational saying and is known to those only younger than me, had I known the negative association of the term I would never have used it.”