Paul discusses equal opportunity issues for disabled people.
Paul Anderson (b.1962/06/03; male, peer educator)
C900/10584 © BBC

Transcript for Belfast

Paul: When I left school, OK, I went to segregated school as I said and I was in probably the top class in the school. Now that’s a statement of fact; that’s not me being egotistical. But when I left that school, that cocooned environment, I believed that I was in the top one per cent or whatever of society, right? But I was in for an awful shock, because there is no top one per cent; there’s no bottom one per cent; everybody’s just in there and everybody’s got their own thing to do. But I was discriminated against when I was looking for jobs. I mean, I went tae interviews and I was asked questions like, uh, “How do you go to the toilet?” and, you know, really, sort of, like, personal questions like that, that, that were irrelevant. But then again, I mean, there was at that time The Disability Discrimination Act1, for example, wasn’t in and although that, I mean, that’s a whole different issue again, which we might talk about later, uh, there was the, the disability quota at the time, you know, the three per cent blue card holders. And I tried to get a, a, a job in various places, but eventually I did get a job in a PVC2 window factory. Uhm, and I was lucky that way, because actually the, the bo, the man who owned the factory was married to one of the lecturers that, that I had in, uh, Bangor Tech. at the time. And I got quite a high mark in Computer Studies, so they, uh, they were looking for a computer operator. So they rang me up and to cut a long story short I was there for eleven years. Uhm.

Owen: And how, and was that, that was a good experience presumably, was it?

Paul: Well, it’s a good experience for anybody to get a job.

Owen: Yeah.

Paul: You know?

Owen: Yeah.

Paul: Uhm, but it’s also very mixed if you’re in a job for eleven years, you know, anybody who’s in a job for eleven years, the lustre’ll go off at some point and it did for me. And now I’ve moved on: I’m working for The Family Planning Association3 as a Peer Educator. Uhm, and I don’t know what I’m going to be doing next, you know, so I’m, I’m always on the look-out for different challenges. But, uh, discrimination against people generally and, and friends of mine who are disabled is quite rife in this community, because we have this ethos coming from the government that wants to keep people on benefits and not let people out their jobs and one of the things that I did find difficult when I was working in the window factory, that the Board Room was upstairs and I had to actually be physically carried upstairs. I mean, I only worked there for eleven years and was in the Board Room mebbe three times, but what that was saying to me was, uhm, there’d be no wheelchair user’ll ever be, uh, on the Board of Directors here, or, or be in the management team, because all the management stuff was all done upstairs. So there are those very subtle signs of discrimination that go, that go on, you know, and I mean that’s, like, that’s covert discrimination almost. Uhm, I’m, but I guess I’ve been very lucky, uhm, as regards outright discrimination. I mean, I can think of a, a couple of things that I’ve mentioned one example to you. Uhm, but by and large I personally have been very lucky.

Owen: Well, what about things like access, because, as you say, in a sense, that’s covert discrimination, uhm, and that, that, that, that’s a kind of ongoing issue, really, isn’t it, I mean, society is terribly, kind of, exclusive in that sense, isn’t it, thoughtless?

Paul: Uhm, I suppose if people haven’t come up against it, they’re not going to think about it, OK, so let’s, let’s put that on the table first. Uhm, but yes, you are right, I mean, society does exclude disabled people and when we’re talking about access, people get hung up on, uh, wheelchair access and they think if they put a ramp outside the building and a disabled toilet, they have the thing sorted out. Well, that’s very, very far from the truth, because what about access to information? Like, for example, uhm, producing pamphlets on audio-cassette for blind people, or even brail? Or, uhm, any information videos to have signers on or even in a simplified version for people with learning disability? So access is much, much wider than, than just the wheelchair issue. And there’s only, like, about one per cent or two per cent or something of disabled people who are wheelchair users. So we need to really look at that. The disability movement needs to look at that as well, because a lot of the activists, not, by no means all of them: there are deaf and blind, uhm, and people with, uh, visual impairments and hearing impairments who are very, very active in the disability movement, uh, but a lot of the activists appear at the moment to be wheelchair users. And we need to sort out that balance as well. So access is very important, but it’s a broader picture than, uh, what people would have us believe.


  1. The Disability Discrimination Act refers to a UK parliamentary act of 1995, which makes it unlawful to discriminate against people in respect of their disabilities in relation to employment, the provision of goods and services, education and transport.
  2. PVC refers to polyvinyl chloride, a widely used plastic.
  3. The Family Planning Association is a charitable organisation working to improve the sexual health of all people throughout the UK.

Commentary for Belfast

The Belfast accent

Paul speaks with an instantly recognisable Belfast accent. First of all, he is a rhotic speaker — that is he pronounces the <r> sound after a vowel. Listen to the way he pronounces the words whatever, sort of, personal, later, three percent blue card holders, lecturers, Bangor Tech., computer studies, computer operator, eleven years, working, government, Board Room, upstairs, worked, ever, covert, as regards, by and large, personally, first, sorted out, information, signers, simplified version, learning disability, visual impairments, wheelchair users and broader picture.


Listen also to the consonant Paul uses in the following words and phrases where <t> appears between two vowel sounds: to cut a long story short, a lot of, sort out, segregated, whatever, bottom, later, computer, operator, educator, disability and community. In each case he uses a sound much more like a <d> than a <t> — a process known as T-voicing.

Rhoticity was at one time a feature of speech throughout the UK but in England it is nowadays increasingly restricted to the West Country, the far South West and a shrinking area of Lancashire to the north of Manchester. It is, however, a feature that unites speakers in Scotland and on both sides of the Irish border. T-voicing is also common in the West Country, but perhaps more intriguingly both features are characteristic of English spoken with a North American accent.

Slow change

Linguists can use comparative information between accents to help us understand how and when language change occurs. It should, for instance, come as no surprise to discover that some aspects of pronunciation in the USA resemble speech patterns in Northern Ireland, as the English Language arrived in both places at a similar point in time. The varieties spoken in Ireland and the USA clearly retain some of the features of seventeenth-century English that have subsequently disappeared from many accents in England. Yet if we consider Australian, New Zealand or South African English, they are all noticeably non-rhotic — that is <r> is not pronounced after a vowel in words like farm, corn and better.

Large numbers of English-speaking colonists arrived in the southern hemisphere around the beginning of the nineteenth century — some two hundred years after English was transported across the Atlantic. We can probably assume, therefore, that the vast majority of the emigrants to those countries at that time were speakers from parts of England that were already non-rhotic. In other words, we can infer that speakers in South East England, the East Midlands and East Anglia began to omit the <r> sound after a vowel some time in the eighteenth century. The fact that even in England there remain ‘relic’ areas, such as Bristol, where <r> is still pronounced shows just how long it takes for a sound change to work its way through a language as a whole.