A car magazine has come under fire from charities and parents of children with special needs after it referred to a vehicle as being “chromosomally challenged”.
Car magazine published the article as a review of a new model of Fiat, using the phrase to imply the car was slow.
A Scottish Down’s Syndrome charity condemned the use of the phrase as “offensive” and said it proved the magazine to be “still in the Dark Ages” in their negative attitudes towards people with the condition.
Alan Greenwood, a father from Stirlingshire, whose three-year-old daughter, Rosie, has Down’s Syndrome, wrote to the magazine to complain about the description.
He said: “What sticks in my craw is that Car magazine would never dream of writing ‘This car looks like someone with Down’s Syndrome’. They’d see that as tasteless and offensive. But using an expression like ‘chromosomally challenged’ is just as tasteless in its own way and it’s aimed at the same target – they’re just using slightly more sophisticated language.
“It’s good that Car changed the online version of their article, but I’m at a loss as to why they thought a phrase like that was acceptable in the first place.”
Greenwood, who runs a communications agency in Dunblane, added: “Rosie just gets on with her life, like we all do. I doubt she sees having an extra chromosome as a challenge.”
The journalist, Chris Chilton, who penned the article for the magazine’s website, where he is described as a “contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker”, wrote: “With no peppy Twinair engine available to gee up base versions of Fiat’s chromosonally [sic] challenged MPV, performance is more sedentary than a sloth with a daytime telly addiction.”
Pandora Summerfield, chief executive of Down’s Syndrome Scotland, said: “I am shocked that any journalist would go so low.”
She added: “The utter absurdity of this comparison highlights the bigger issue that many within our society are still in the Dark Ages about their negative attitudes to disabilities and particularly learning disabilities.”
After Greenwood complained, the magazine altered the article’s online version to “odd-looking MPV”.
Lewis Kingston, online editor for the magazine, wrote in an email to Greenwood: “It appears that such an implication was not considered by those responsible. Having had my attention drawn to it, I completely understand where you are coming from – so have revised the copy. Please accept our apologies, if any offence was caused.”