Disability Hate Crime
& The Hostile Environment.
I am becoming concerned that the Christian community is not able to join the dots and wake up to the environment that disabled people are living in in 2018 Britain.
I’m quite a robust guy and I am not writing this with a view to garnering your sympathy, what I am doings saying that as a robust guy these things are even getting to me to a point I am nervous about going out, they are affecting my mood and making me nervous, if they can do that to me what are they doing to others who are less robust?
Let me try and brake it down. I have been a guide dog owner for eighteen years and registered blind for seventeen. In the first sixteen years I can say that I always suffered a fairly low level of abuse because of my visual impairment, complete strangers commenting on what I could or could not see, problems with Asian taxi drivers and shop owners not welcoming my dog etc. Whilst these things should not be happening and are upsetting I had come to terms with the fact that this was part of daily life as a guide dog owner, that being a guide dog owner means that you will be highly visible and therefor a potential victim of such behaviour.
Then in 2016 after the Brexit vote, the world changed and my world became suddenly very different.
One of the inadvertent consequences of Brexit has been to give licence to every “bigoted nutter” to say what they like to who they like. I am very aware that I am using emotive language here and do not say these things lightly, so let me give you some examples to back up what I’m saying.
On the day the Brexit vote took place, Fr Bill and I were in Rome at the Vatican for the Living Fully disability conference. There were people there from all over the globe, many of them came to us to express their sadness that we were leaving.
Three weeks after returning home my wife took out a new lease on a car, not a Motability car, her own vehicle paid for by her from her own salary, I was alighting from the car at our front door one evening when a neighbour spat at me and went on to shout “now that we’ve got Brexit, once we have rid of the immigrants, you "spaccas"will be next and there’ll be no more free cars.
I called the police, they came and to use their phrase “had a word with him” but because he lives right opposite me advised me not to take it further as I have to see him almost daily. Much against my better judgment I let it go.
Some six months or so after that we witnessed a van load of builders park in a disabled bay, we challenged them and I was told to “fuck off”. We went of to do our shopping and eventually I took my guide dog Jarvis back to the car and waited for my wife to finish her shopping. The builders surrounded the car hurling more four letter words and rocking the car. I took photos of them on my phone and the reg of their van, by the time the police arrived they had gone, not further action was taken.
On four occasion in the last six months I have been told that once the immigrants are dealt with the disabled will be next, all by complete strangers whilst out shopping.
I am very active in the wider world of disability and have many disabled friends. I am listening to the chatter of disabled people and here is what concerns me.
Cuts to benefits and services are having devastating affects on disabled people. At the same time there is an increasing public debate on assisted suicide, then there is the recent talk about eliminating Downs Syndrome.
Disabled people are not viewing each of these separate issues in isolation, many are making the connection that society sees them as a burden and that it would be easier for society if they simply did away with themselves.
I am not arguing that any of this was intentional non the less we have built a “hostile environment” and wether intended or not these are the very real consequences.
We as Church want to be able to use many trendy phrases, phrases such as mutual flourishing, everyone welcome, inclusive, equal and others.
We need to earn the right to such use of language and whilst such things as I have described here go largely unchallenged by Church we simply are losing the right to do so.