Disability discrimination on the rise?

News coming out of Britain yesterday states that disability hate crimes are on the rise in our colonial overlord, leading to a formal investigation. Some of the stats are absolutely horrifying,

Using data taken from Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) figures, the commission revealed that at least one person appeared in court every working day charged with a crime against a disabled person. Almost half of these cases (45%) involved violence.

In its latest report on hate crime , the CPS said in the two years up until the end of March 2009, 576 people were prosecuted for disability hate crimes with 76% of the completed cases resulting in a conviction. (via BBC and Disability Coaching)

While the numbers are quite damning, I immediately began questioning if this was a problem in Canada too because while I have certainly seen and experienced examples of disability discrimination (also known as ableism in some circles), I cannot for the life of me think of an example where someone has committed a hate crime against me. I think perhaps part of this disconnect lies in the use of language. When I looked into it, the Canadian definition of a “hate crime” (via a CBC Indepth report) certainly goes a long way to proving my hypothesis that I’ve never been hate crimed. I’ve certainly never heard of or experienced an individual or group of individuals “publicly stirring up or inciting hatred” against people with disabilities in my community. Rather, I think the true face of disability discrimination in Canada is far more insidious, with a subconscious ableism lurking behind statements like “It’s too expensive to become disabled” and “It must be so hard for you.” Rather than an outright hatred for people with disabilities, I think the favour of discrimination is more connotative, below the surface, and based more on ignorance than outright distaste. When a new building is constructed without an accessible entrance, it is not a hate crime, but rather a lack of knowledge or empathy for living with a disability.

I think this bodes well for us, as a community, as it is easier to educate than extinguish deep seated hatred. If nothing else, perhaps we have finally found 1 thing we do better than Britain…which is…not hate on disability? We’re #1! We’re #1!