An open and honest account from our Community Engagement Worker for International Day of People With Disabilities 2020

An open and honest account from our Community Engagement Worker for International Day of People with Disabilities 2020.

An open and honest account from our Community Engagement Worker for International Day of People With Disabilities 2020

I have always seen the world a little bit differently. When I was four years old, I could name the catalogue number of every Thomas the Tank Engine die cast model. I have Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia.

For most part, I was a happy child and I did not really realise that I was significantly different from everyone else. This started to change as I got older and found myself having to overcome more and more barriers and I found that I was being bullied on a regular basis. Although I did not realise it, I was a victim of disability Hate Crime.

One of the most notable examples was when I started secondary school.  l travelled to school by bus, first with my mother and then later on my own. This was the first time I had ever used a bus on a regular basis. Unfortunately, I would face bulling on a daily basis. I was very tall for my age and they started to call me Lenny – after the character from the John Steinbeck book “Of Mice and Men”. In the book, Lenny is a giant man with learning disabilities. I had not read the book myself at this point and I only realised the context several years later, when I studied the book myself for my GCSE English Literature exam and it was extremely upsetting.

I also remember a particularly unpleasant image being placed in my backpack by an older student which was only discovered by my mother that evening. I would also have things thrown at me and bags would be placed over spare seats, to make sure I could not sit down. In one particularly unpleasant incident a stone was thrown at the window of the bus where I was sitting. As I got older I found myself masking more and more as I was so anxious about being bullied.

I didn’t realise at the time that I was victim of Hate Crime. Even when I reported the issue to the school nothing really changed. I did not know who else I could speak to. In the end I stopped getting the bus to school and at one stage refused to travel on a bus for any reason.

Last month we marked the 25th Anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act. For the first time it was made unlawful in UK law to discriminate against people, in respect of their disabilities in relation to employment, the provision of goods and services, education and transport. While it is right that we recognise the progress which has been made since then, it is clear that there is still a long way to go.

The social model of disability says that people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their differences. For example, if a wheelchair user was unable to access a building due to stairs, it would be the stairs which are disabling them.

Hate Crime is one of the barriers disabled people face. The tragedy of Fiona Pilkington and Francecca Hardwick puts this into sharp focus. Francecca had a learning disability and the family had been targeted by a group of local teenagers for over a decade. Their home had been pelted with stones, eggs and flower and they faced constant abuse. On 23rd October 2007, Fiona drove Francecca to a secluded lay-by where she poured petrol over the backseat and set the car on fire. Fiona mentioned the gang in a suicide note to her mother. “The street kids, well I have just given up, I am just not cut out to take this much harassment.”.

We have also seen an increase in Disability Hate Crime due to the Covid pandemic. Many disabled people are exempt from wearing face masks and this means many disabled people receive abuse. Disabled people have also received abuse online and have faced suggestions that they should be locked up to stop spreading the virus.

Quite simply, Hate Crime is one of the barriers that creates disability.  I have just turned 30. I graduated from university in 2013 and I have since established a successful career in the equality sector. I am now working for Stop Hate UK, as their Community Engagement Worker, in the London Borough of Sutton. Disabled people have so much potential but it is only by removing these societal barriers that society will accept and appreciate the contribution of disabled people. To make this possible we need to be able to live without fear or abuse.

If you witness or experience Disability Hate Crime you can report it to Stop Hate UK 24/7 on 0800 1385 1625.

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Stop Hate UK – Stop Hate UK – Response to Baroness Lawrence Report

Stop Hate UK – Response to Baroness Lawrence Report

The recent report by our Patron, Baroness Lawrence, into how ‘structural racism’ has contributed to the disproportionate impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, upon on Black and Asian communities, has received much media attention this week.

In her report, Baroness Lawrence said these groups were “over-exposed”, faced “barriers” to healthcare and had also been scapegoated for Covid’s spread.

Prior to the report’s publication, a government adviser claimed that “structural racism” was not in itself a “reasonable explanation” for infection rates differing between ethnic groups and also suggested that focusing on other factors like people’s jobs and housing conditions would be more helpful; whilst another said that higher transmission rates among BAME group were more likely to be down to “a range of socio-economic and geographical factors”,

We support the claims by Baroness Lawrence, that these communities “have been over-exposed, under-protected, stigmatised and overlooked during this pandemic – and that this has been generations in the making.”

Systematic racism is, sadly, still entrenched within our society and it is undeniable that this is likely to have led to the effects outlined in her report.

As Baroness Lawrence goes on to say, “The impact of Covid is not random, but foreseeable and inevitable, the consequence of decades of structural injustice, inequality and discrimination that blights our society.”

The report also says that BAME workers ‘were more likely than white people to work in “frontline” jobs and come into contact with coronavirus’ and, when accessing healthcare, there was a “lack of cultural and language-appropriate communication”, with patients “not being taken seriously when presenting with symptoms.” BAME people were also “under-represented across the senior leadership of the NHS”.

Commissioned by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, in April, the report goes on to state that BAME communities had “also been subject to disgraceful racism as some have sought to blame different communities for the spread of the virus” and calls on ministers to outline a plan to tackle the rise in Hate Crime, with party leaders “issuing a joint statement condemning attempts to pit communities against one another”.

At Stop Hate UK, we see the damage caused by Hate, discrimination and prejudice and we understand the issues that these and many other underrepresented groups face every single day.

We are doubly concerned when we hear that these issues also affect the impact of the pandemic upon BAME communities and that there are ‘barriers’ to people accessing the healthcare and help that they need.

Baroness Lawrence’s report has received much attention, and also attracted some criticism, however, from our professional experience, the situation she describes is very much real and we applaud not only the commissioning of the report, but also Baroness Lawrence’s brave and thorough review in highlighting the real issues facing minority groups at these very difficult and challenging times.

To find out more about the work of Stop Hate UK and how you can help, visit www.stophateuk.org

You can read Baroness Lawrence’s Full Report Here: https://www.lawrencereview.co.uk/