i Editor's Letter: Crimes against disabled people


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The Independent Online


There is one, tiny saving grace about today's story detailing the shocking rise in hate crimes against disabled people: the figures refer to 2011. One has to believe that this year, the figures will reflect a Paralympics-inspired drop in such barbarism.

I also understand that some of the rise is attributable to the greater confidence of victims coming forward, but there is no hiding from a one-third rise year on year. It is simply shameful.

Who are the attackers? Are they the people on my 27 bus? Are they you, or me? Back in the dark ages of my school years, like many, I was guilty of the type of ignorance that saw us all bandy around words like "flid" or "spaz" without ever knowing what a thalidomide victim, or a person with cerebral palsy, was. But, attack a person for being disabled? We were ignorant, not Neanderthal.

One positive by-product of the subsequent rise in political correctness is that we were educated out of our ignorance. For many years I never heard any of the many derogatory terms used against disabled people (I do not here see the need for "people with disability"). That is, until recently.

Among some of our young, insults like "spaz" and most commonly, "retarded", are bandied about in the same pejorative way that "gay" is. Unlike us back then, they know what the words mean. However, confront a teen, and they will insist they are neither anti-gay nor anti-disabled. And, they invariably are not. But it is a smaller leap to hate crimes from bandying such words around than it would be if we all understood how dangerous apparently innocuous language can be.