Am I being targeted due to my disability?

Information on how to recognise Disability Hate Crime

Person holds up hand behind rainy window

Do you feel like you are being picked on because you are disabled? – Easy Read version (word)

Do you feel like you are being picked on because you are disabled – Easy Read version (pdf)

It may seem odd to think that a person may not know if they were being targeted due to their disability. However, it is more common than you think, with many Disabled people putting up with discrimination, harassment, and bullying, sometimes daily.

The law can be quite difficult to understand in terms of what our rights are as a Disabled person. As a UK citizen, we all have the right to live without fear of violence. We have rights under the Equality Act if we feel we are being treated unfairly. It can be difficult to pursue a discrimination case under the Equality Act as it is up to us, as an individual, to take up a case with the organisation or company, which involves legal costs.

Not all, but many Disabled people have grown up being treated differently, under-estimated, and separated from mainstream services. It is a common experience for Disabled people to put up with so called ‘low level’ daily incidents just because it has always happened, or they have had a negative experience when reporting to authorities.

It can be hard to realise that you are being picked on because you are disabled because a person may pretend to be your friend and be very nice at first, which can make it harder to say no if they start asking you to do things you do not want to do.  It can be hard to work out when something is happening is a crime.

The problem with certain types of hate crime against Disabled people is that the person committing the crime may not show any hostility at first and what is happening is not at the level of a crime. But these things can build up over time and become more serious, which can mean they are then something that should be reported to the police or a third-party reporting centre.

This is the case with Disability Hate Crime. There is a piece of legislation effective from 2003, that means if a crime is committed (any crime) and it is due to a perceived hostility toward you because you are Disabled, when the perpetrator is sentenced, they will get a more severe sentence or penalty.

Examples of Disability Hate Crime

The following are some examples of disability-related harassment, bullying and hate crime. This is not an exhaustive list and there may be other examples.

  • derogatory, demeaning or humiliating remarks
  • name-calling or ridicule
  • offensive or patronising language
  • insults
  • threats and intimidation
  • invasion of personal space
  • unnecessary touching
  • unwanted comments about appearance or disability
  • intrusive questioning about disability
  • offensive jokes, banter
  • abusive verbal or written comments related to disability
  • offensive emails
  • cyberbullying, using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones to threaten, bully or intimidate
  • offensive graffiti
  • financial exploitation of a disabled person including taking their benefits money
  • deliberately putting aids and adaptations out of reach
  • damage to a disabled person’s property, including aids and adaptations
  • sexual abuse, rape and sexual assault
  • physical assault, ranging from lower level assaults up to murder

Below is guidance to prosecutors taken from the Crown Prosecution Service website:

Common Factors in Disability Hate Crime

When building cases, it may assist prosecutors to be aware of a number of common features in disability hate crimes:

  • Incidents escalate in severity and frequency. There may have been previous incidents, such as: financial or sexual exploitation; making the victim commit minor criminal offences such as shoplifting; using or selling the victim’s medication; taking over the victim’s accommodation to commit further offences such as taking/selling drugs, handling stolen goods and encouraging under-age drinking.
  • Opportunistic criminal offending becomes systematic and there is regular targeting, either of the individual victim or of their family/friends, or of other disabled people.
  • Perpetrators are often partners, family members, friends, carers, acquaintances, or neighbours. Offending by persons with whom the disabled person is in a relationship may be complicated by emotional, physical and financial dependency and the need to believe a relationship is trusting and genuine, however dysfunctional. Where perpetrators are partners, or live with the disabled person and are either members of the same family or have previously been partners, the offence of Controlling or coercive behaviour may apply: see legal guidance on Controlling or Coercive behaviour in an Intimate or Family Relationship.
  • Carers, whether employed, family or friends, may control all or much of the disabled person’s finances. This provides the carer with opportunities to abuse, manipulate and steal from the disabled person.
  • There are a number of common triggers for crimes against disabled persons, for example: access or equipment requirements, such as ramps to trains and buses, can cause irritability or anger in perpetrators; perceived benefit fraud ; jealousy in regard to perceived “perks”, such as disabled parking spaces.
  • Multiple perpetrators are involved in incidents condoning and encouraging the main offender(s) – for example, filming on their mobile phones and sending pictures to friends or social networking sites.
  • False accusations of the victim being a paedophile or “grass”.
  • Cruelty, humiliation and degrading treatment, often related to the nature of the disability: for example, blindfolding someone who is deaf; destroying mobility aids.
  • Barriers to, and negative experience of, reporting to criminal justice agencies, which leads disabled people to feel that they are not being taken seriously.
  • Disabled people have a tendency to report incidents to a third party rather than to the police.

The important thing to remember is that you are not alone, and you do not deserve to be treated badly by anyone.

If you are not sure what is happening to you and whether it is a crime, you can speak to your local Deaf & Disabled People’s Organisation or Stay Safe East via the CATCH Partnership. You do not have to report anything to receive information, support and advice.

Visit our How to Report Hate Crime webpage for more information.

Short film by Disability Advice Service Lambeth (dasl): What is Disability Hate Crime?