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Editors Notes: IPSO Told me Nobody Complains About the UK Media’s Ableism- so Let’s Prove Them Wrong

One of my goals this year is to make a lasting change in the reporting of disability in the media. So when I secured a meeting with the head of standards and regulation at the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) about guidelines for reporting disability I thought I was one step closer. Oh, how wrong I was.

IPSO regulates some of the biggest papers in the UK, including Daily Mail, The Sun, The Times, The Telegraph, and Metro – some of the worst offenders in the last decade of casual and downright overt ableism.

But instead of discussing potentially coming up with guidance, I was told by the biggest print media regulator in the UK that there was no remit for this.

Because apparently, nobody complains about the way the media writes about disabled people in this country.

Now you and I both know that isn’t correct, and when I drilled down into that, it was actually that they’ve never had enough complaints about one specific instance of ableism in the media to make a ruling.

But this is what happens when it’s a systemic problem and the majority of what is reported about us is bad. 

Unlike other movements, there are no specific catalysts for the discrimination we receive on a daily basis. It’s become such a normal part of society to see disability as one of the worst things that can happen to someone, a narrative to which the press has massively attributed.

Ableism in the media happens every single day. In small ways like the language that suggests disabled people are suffering or that we’re inspirational. Then there are the ingrained ways we’ve seen for decades such as how the press massively contributed to the narrative that everyone on benefits are scroungers and faking to not have to work.

Then more recently is the really really harmful way that columnists and experts are given inches to proclaim that chronic and neurodivergent conditions aren’t real and are inspired by TikTok trends.

I see this belief often and as someone who has been misunderstood and derided most of their life over their conditions I can’t explain the untold damage it does.

These narratives also don’t ask why so many people are suddenly seeing themselves in social media posts after years of thinking they were just “weird” or being gaslit by professionals,

While the Head of Standards agreed with me that there is always lots of outrage on social media when a paper is ableist, she said it doesn’t translate into complaints.

So, I need your help to send a message to IPSO and mainstream media that the way they write about disability and the message they spread to their mostly non-disabled readership is not okay. 

On the same day as my meeting, Daily Mail published “why are so many adults being diagnosed with ADHD now?” Then at the weekend, a columnist at The Times wrote “I’m sorry but all this ADHD doesn’t add up”

screenshot of an article by Dominic Lawson with title “I’m sorry, but all this ADHD doesn’t add up. Celebrities have helped convinced us that we all need an ‘illness identity’”.
Image courtesy of Charli who wrote an excellent thread on this

It’s by no means just these two publications or just about ADHD, but IPSO needs to reach a threshold of complaints and ADHD seems to be the easy target at the minute.

So, if IPSO wants complaints we need to give them some.

Here’s how to make a complaint about either or both of them:

Go to this link

In section 1: on click material published in print and/ or online click online for Daily Mail and both for The Times and write the publication name Daily Mail or The Times.

In section 2: click no on previously contacted publication 

For the Mail complaint

Headline: Why are so many adults now being diagnosed with ADHD? 

Date: 30/01/23 


For The Times complaint

Headline: I’m sorry but all this ADHD doesn’t add up

Date: 05/02/22


In section 3: For clauses breached click 12 discrimination and then on the next page, write your own reasons for the complaint or copy and paste from the templates I created below.

For the Daily Mail article, you can use this template.

And for The Times one, I created this template:

Finally, fill in your details, review and send!

Please share this widely with your networks, pals and communities using the hashtag #MediaAbleismWatch. If you want to share this all on Twitter, I have a quick tweet you can share, or a thread about The Times piece and one about the Mail one.

I know that these things take emotional, mental and physical energy so please only do so if you can, a share on social media would also be massively appreciated if you don’t have the capacity to complain.

The burden shouldn’t fall on us to do this and it shouldn’t take us complaining for it to be changed. But we need to take a stand. 

Let’s show them how loud our voices can be

In solidarity 


UPDATE 07/03/23: Thank you all for taking action! Despite over 400 complaints IPSO did not find any publications in violation of the code still wont take action. This is because their discrimination clause only applies to individuals, not groups.

BUT the code is currently under review and anyone can make recommendations. If you can, please email the review committee at ask them to change the discrimination clause to include groups of protected people. Here is an email template, deadline is 31st March.

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By Rachel Charlton-Dailey

Founder and Editor in Chief

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