People with learning disabilities and autism aren’t respected or seen as equal. We’re the targets of hate crime for several reasons. People assume we are vulnerable and an easy target because they see us as ‘different’. Lots of people still don’t even know what a learning disability or autism is.
Fear of hate crime makes people limit their daily lives to stay safe. They are isolated and invisible. And the same is true online. We’re encouraged to avoid risky situations. This makes it difficult to be involved in online communities without hiding our disability.
I never go out on my own after 8pm. If I’m travelling, I make sure people are in the train carriage with me. I always stay on well-lit streets.
I regularly hear stories from people who have the same experience or worse. Many don’t feel safe in their own home and get moved away to protect them from abusive neighbours. I hear from people who are too scared to leave their house and don’t even feel safe going into their own garden. Meanwhile, there have been no consequences for their neighbours.
Recently, through my work with Dimensions, I met a man named Richard, who told me his story. Richard has endured a lifetime of bullying because of his learning disability. People have trespassed on his home and thrown eggs at him. They’ve set fires under his flat. They’ve demanded money from him and refused to leave without it.
Richard reported a number of hate crimes to the police, but he was told he needed an appropriate adult with him to make a report. But this isn’t true – this only applies to offenders who have learning disabilities or autism.
People like Richard rarely report hate crime because it is a part of their daily life and it rarely leads to a conviction. This is unacceptable. We can’t have an inclusive society until we all recognise people with learning disabilities and autism as ordinary people and allow them a normal life, where they can walk down the street and be free from fear.
Richard’s reports fell on deaf ears and he has lost confidence in reporting any further hate crimes. He feels hurt, angry and betrayed that his life is limited whilst his abusers get away with it time and time again.