by Richard Currie

What are the root causes of disability hate crime?

In their book ‘ The New Politics of Disablement ’ Mike Oliver and Colin Barnes argued that disability is still mostly viewed either as an individual tragedy, or a health issue, or both, by politicians, health and social care professionals, and the general public.

Our Social Model understanding of disability says this is wrong. Based on disabled people’s real experience, it says it is negative cultural norms and the way society’s organised which disable people, not individuals’ impairments. Disability hate crime happens as part of a society which disables people with impairments.

In her book, ‘ Scapegoat: Why We Are Failing Disabled People ’, Katherine Quarmby traces negative attitudes towards disabled people back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. They believed in the idea of “the body beautiful” – they idolised physical perfection, and thought that disabled people were cursed or sinful. The philosopher Plato believed disabled children should be killed at birth.

Many of the philosophers who laid the foundations for our modern social, economic, moral and legal systems believed in things that would now be seen as disability hate crime. From witch hunts which victimised people with mental health impairments, to modern stereotypes of disabled people as “scroungers,” these cultural beliefs provide clues about discomfort with disability in society today.

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Now, instances of hate crime are on the rise. Last year recorded instances of disability hate crime in Greater Manchester rose by 140%. One positive thing…

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