Hate crime is a prevalent issue for people with disabilities. Incidents of hate can range from name-calling and taunts to physical or sexual violence. Any of these offenses can be highly destructive to a person’s well-being.

A victim of hate crime may find themselves feeling scared, angry, uncomfortable and less confident, and these feelings can lead to far more powerful and damaging impacts on an individual’s life.

Dimensions recently surveyed over 320 members of the learning disability and autism community and found that 73% have experienced hate crime.

This is why we’re partnering Dimensions’ #ImWithSam campaign to put an end to learning disability and autism hate crime.

Independence is at risk

Hannah* is a woman we support at our services in Trafford. She has a learning disability and a physical disfigurement. Hannah was happy travelling independently by bus, until she received taunts and name-calling with regards to her appearance and disability. Her experience of being singled out because of her disability has affected her confidence in going to interviews and meeting new people. She became anxious about going out in public spaces and, in particular, using public transport.

When we supported Hannah into a job, her mother would drive her to work so that she could avoid using public transport. Sadly, her mother passed away. Hannah now relies on being driven to work by a member of staff at United Response, until Access to Work funding can be secured for her to use a taxi.

Increasing awareness and reporting

Hannah did not consider reporting the abuse she encountered as a hate crime. She is not alone – many victims of learning disability and autism hate crime admit that they would not report the crime. In the last year, 2,500 disability hate crimes were recorded by the police; in contrast, the National Crime Survey estimates a true figure of 70,000 disability related hate crimes.

We set up seven hate crime reporting centres in a range of buildings in the Trafford area, to make support for victims of disability hate crime more accessible. We delivered autism and learning disability awareness training to employees at the centres as well as to the police in the area. The response has been very positive and we have received fantastic support from the police to increase support for victims.

One man who used the service, Jack, was anxious and withdrawn having been called names on the bus on several occasions on his way into work. He reported the incidents with the support of his United Response job coach and his employer.

Having lost his confidence, Jack required travel training to enable him to return to work. It took some time and a lot of support for him to eventually overcome his anxieties and continue his life as normal.

Without the right support, both Hannah and Jack’s experiences could have quickly spiralled them into unemployment. With less than 6.8% of people with a learning disability and 15% of people with autism in full-time paid employment, the risk of people becoming unemployed due to hate crime is very concerning.

How you can help

There is a lot to be done nationally to put an end to hate crime. We are supporting Dimensions in campaigning for a list of key changes, including changing the law to make online abuse of people with disabilities a hate crime, and separating hate statistics of people with a learning disability/autism from other disabilities.

Everyone deserves to live within their community – this means having the right to live free of hate and abuse. Join the #ImWithSam campaign and help protect this important right for people with learning disabilities and autism.

Join the #ImWithSam campaign 

 *Names have been changed to protect identities