Kaylea Titford’s neglect was appalling- yet media focused on her weight

Trigger warning: this piece contains descriptions of death of a disabled person by neglect and fatphobia in the media surrounding the Kaylea Titford case. Please take care and only read if you feel able.

When I first read about the death of Kaylea Titford, I was shocked: both by the deep neglect she experienced—culminating in her passing at her home in Wales in October 2020, aged just 16—and at how misleading the headlines were.

Parents killed girl by letting her become obese” Announced BBC News, The Evening standard declared “Father of obese teenager found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence.” 

Kaylea was a disabled girl born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus who lived and died in appalling conditions because her parents—enabled by a society that consistently devalues disabled lives—chose not to prioritise her care. 

Yet the mainstream media’s primary concern seemed to be that Kaylea was ‘obese’. 

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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.


It’s Cooler to Listen to Disabled People than Pity Them, The Apprentice

It’s Season 17 of The Apprentice, and for some reason, I am still watching this show. Usually, the most irritating part of the show is Alan Sugar’s grating personality, but this week, viewers were subjected to a jarringly offensive cartoon about a disabled, wheelchair-using child.

This week in the search to find Lord Sugar’s next business partner, the task was to create a cartoon aimed at 2 to 4-year-olds.

Both teams immediately chose to pursue an “inclusion” angle. Team ‘Affinity’ created a cartoon about Yogita The Giraffe, a young giraffe who was afraid she wouldn’t fit in at school because she is too tall. So far, so bland.

Meanwhile, Team ‘Apex’ decided to create a cartoon centred on two children – Femi and Faye (a wheelchair user). An ableist disaster ensued.

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Box-Ticking Exercise: Ellie Simmonds’ Inclusion on Strictly is Hard Fought

Box-Ticking Exercise is the new monthly(-ish) column by Melissa Parker in which she dissects ableism and the portrayal of disability in tv film and media. Being M, this is of course all done with her pen as a scalpel.

Columnist Allison Pearson’s piece about the new series of Strictly Come Dancing expresses an often loud, profoundly entrenched privilege – the right to spew bile mindlessly and without consequence.

“From mis-matched same-sex couples to the show’s first contestant with dwarfism, it’s clear producers value ‘inclusion’ over entertainment.”  

She persists elsewhere in the piece, “but fans I have spoken to already worry our much-loved dance competition is turning into a box-ticking exercise.”  

In a world where disabled people have been hidden away for so long, our equality will always feel like their oppression.