By Simon Green
Over the past few weeks I’ve been on a journey across Wales, speaking to people who say they’ve been the victims of disability hate crime, people targeted in different ways due to their disability.
Along the way I’ve learnt about the problems they say they’ve endured, including the often daily verbal abuse and harassment.
Trying to find out why disabled people are often targeted has also been on the forefront of my mind during the making of this programme.
I know what it’s like to endure hate crime myself. Since I was in my early teens I have had many health problems after being diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis, a neurological condition which results in tumours (mostly benign) developing inside my body. This condition, along with a freak accident eight years ago, has resulted in me having to use a wheelchair.
When I realised I would never walk unaided again I knew my life would change. I expected to be patronised, to not be able to do everything I did before and was worried if I would still get access to all my favorite places.
But I never expected that being disabled could lead to hostility, aggression, verbal abuse and even violence.
Sadly it did and I soon discovered that continuing to live my life as I did before, being outgoing, going clubbing with mates, dating, travelling and my love of sport has lead to me, close friends and family being harassed on many occasions.
I have been verbally abused on more occasions than I can remember, spat on, mocked, made fun of, been deliberately tipped out of my chair and punched in the face, all because I use a wheelchair, while friends have been slated for associating with me.
So angry did this make me I set out to see if I was alone, to see if other disabled people suffered similar harassment. I also wondered, if maybe, I was doing something to encourage these individuals. So over the past few years I have run my own campaign to learn more about disability related harassment and hate crimes.
I’ve recently been working with the European Human Rights Commission on their “Hidden in Plain Sight” inquiry.
The findings were truly shocking, showing that most disabled people in Wales have suffered from some sort of abuse over the years. The findings are discussed in more detail in the programme ‘Wales This Week – Tormented Days’ due to be transmitted on ITV 1 Wales on Tuesday October 4th at 7.30pm.
Many of us want things in life we can’t have, but after watching the programme you will see that all those who appear want is to live in safety, to walk out of their homes without the fear of verbal abuse, to catch a bus without being called names and to just be happy and not be harassed and tormented.
I hope my findings, and the words spoken by the brave individuals who have agreed to tell their stories, will encourage others to report any instances of hate crime they experience.
- Information on how to report cases of disability hate crime can be found on the Disability Wales website
- Wales this Week – Tormented Days is on ITV1 Wales Tuesday October 4th at 19:30 BST
View findings from the Equality and Human Rights Commission ‘Hidden in plain sight’ report based on qualitative research below: