A new documentary on disability hate crime demonstrates the need for a “wholesale change in attitudes” towards disabled people, according to its disabled writer and director.
The documentary, Targeted: The Truth about Disability Hate Crime, was broadcast last night (Wednesday) on BBC2* and features the stories of five disabled survivors of targeted hostility.
No-one has been prosecuted for any of the hostility experienced by the five disabled people featured in the documentary.
One of those interviewed, Andrea, who has restricted growth, describes how she was attacked and suffered a perforated eardrum and a fractured skull after she heard someone say: “I dare you to go and kick that midget in the head.”
She describes some of the other disablist abuse she frequently experiences and says: “I shouldn’t adapt to society. Society should adapt to me.”
Elaine, a guide dog-owner and former housing manager, describes how she was twice mugged in an underpass near her home and workplace, on one occasion being stabbed with a screwdriver.
She had to quit her job, after she was told by police that she was becoming a target.
Ailsa (pictured), a wheelchair-user and former nurse, experienced years of escalating, targeted hostility from other residents on the estate where she lived, who accused her of “faking” her impairment and “getting something for nothing”.
The disabled occupant of another house on her estate had to leave their home after also being targeted.
Ailsa was eventually forced to leave her home late at night under police escort and move to temporary accommodation.
Another of the five, Daniel Smith, has previously spoken to Disability News Service (DNS) about the impact of one of several attacks he has experienced.
Daniel, who is autistic, says in the documentary that “people don’t like the idea that someone on the spectrum is trying to fit in”.
He adds: “I get targeted, I get socially outcast, I’m usually treated as a social reject.”
Hannah, a nursing assistant, says: “Because of the things that have happened, and the way I have been treated by society, it has definitely made me a more anxious person.”
Richard Butchins, the disabled writer, film-maker and artist who wrote, directed and produced the film, told DNS that disability hate crime was “merely an outward expression of society’s implicit disdain toward disabled people”.
He said: “The solution is not legislation, which often acts as a fig leaf – ‘look, we’ve done something!’”
He called instead for a “wholesale change in attitudes” and a recognition that disabled people “are not a small, needy group in society who take more than they give”.
Butchins said: “Disability crosses all cultural, religious and other divides yet because disability is perceived as only a matter for the individual disabled person it’s easy to ignore systemic issues, and while disability is, undeniably, a personal issue, it is also a societal one.
“We need it to be addressed with the same urgency and determination as has been taken against racism.
“We are subject to treatment no other minority would put up with and at 14 million we are by far the largest minority group in the country.”
He added: “This programme took a long time to get made and because it’s created by disabled people about disabled people, without the presence of an interlocutor or commentary – it is a chance for us to tell our stories with a far more authentic voice.”
The Law Commission is currently consulting on reforms to hate crime laws, including whether there should be new stand-alone “aggravated offences” covering disability hate crime in England and Wales.
*The documentary is being broadcast again on BBC2 this evening at 11.30pm, and is also available on BBC iPlayer
A note from the editor:
Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations.
Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009.
Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…