By Dawn Gullis
My name is Dawn Gullis. I work for Mencap Cymru as the external affairs officer. ITV Wales have asked me to appear as a guest blogger, and respond to the Equality and Human Right’s Commission’s report, following its inquiry into disability-related harassment. I’ve worked with colleagues in Mencap Cymru to prepare this response.
I have a learning disability, and am employed by Mencap Cymru to campaign on behalf of people like me who face discrimination. I am independent, and live with my partner.
I went from a mainstream school, and use public transport by myself to get from a to b. Having a learning disability doesn’t mean the same thing as it did 50 years ago. People aren’t locked away in institutions any more. But many people still face harassment, abuse and hate crimes every day.
In my job, I talked to many other people who have been experienced the sorts of things described in this report. It’s important to remember that it can take many forms, such as being assaulted, called names, or stolen from. Someone with a learning disability might not know where to go for support or how to report incidents. What’s worse is that many are worried they won’t be taken seriously or believed. That’s why it’s so important for people like police, social services, and teachers to understand learning disabilities, and recognise when these things are taking place.
Other people don’t know what’s happening to them is a hate crime until it’s too late. Sometimes, those responsible will even pretend to be your friend. And it’s happened to me. A man who said he was my friend tricked me to let him use my house over Christmas, and told me go and stay with a friend. When I came back, my house had been broken into by police. The man had been abusing a young girl there.
I was a victim of hate crime because he knew I had a learning disability and he knew that he could convince me to leave my house.
People feel really awful after these things have happened to them, and it can make them scared to go outside, or use the bus to go to work.
The EHRC’s report is right to call it ‘hell on earth’ for some people.
What’s important is that others realise how complicated this mistreatment is, but also how much difference a tiny bit of awareness and understanding can go to help put a stop to it.
View findings from the report based on qualitative research below: