Changes in thinking about learning disabilities were accompanied by changes in language.
Official documents throughout the decades reflect these changes. MacIntyre’s first constitution in 1966 had stated that its aim was to provide ‘the relief of persons who are physically or mentally handicapped’. This was the language of the sixties. In the 1989 Annual Review this wording was replaced by a tag line of ‘developing purposeful lives for people with mental disabilities’. This change in language marks an important wider shift in the understanding of disability during the 1980s.
This shift was triggered by the disability rights movement, influenced by ‘the social model of disability’ which argued that disability is created by barriers in society rather than by a person’s impairment. It followed that people can achieve a better quality of life if barriers are removed, and this belief was reflected in the language adopted. It is during this decade that MacIntyre ran a “people first” campaign- one of the few which had a national objective to change public perceptions. It was targeted at the media which lagged behind in their use of language.