12 March 2010


On the International Day of Disabled People I mentioned that the EHRC had used the day to launch an inquiry into disablist harassment in the wake of the Pilkington murder/suicide.

Something occurred to me a couple of days after posting: Plenty of disabled people have been killed in hate crimes - people like Brent Martin who was killed over a bet - but they hadn't really entered the consciousness of non-disabled people. What made the "Pilkington case a Lawrence moment for disability hate crime"? Eventually it hit me: Fiona Pilkington was not disabled. She committed murder/suicide out of frustration at the disablist harassment of her two disabled children. For the first time disablist hate crime was responsible for the death of a non-disabled person. And I think that's why the public suddenly gave a shit. If disablist hate crime was still only killing us mere disableds, no-one would care.

Fortunately disablist hate is now getting the attention of both non-disabled people and at least one disabled person who had previously thought that disablist hate crimes were fiction.

This week we've had the sad news of the death of Mancunian David Askew. Unusually for this kind of story it has been news. For a while yesterday (Thursday) the BBC story about his death topped the list of "most read" stories on the site. Many publications note that he was 'tormented to death' yet I've not seen one article remark that the harassment was probably fuelled by disablist hate.

Also this week we've had the rather ridiculous Ofcom decision that TV stations should broadcast the word "retard" because to not do so would be a breach of viewers' human rights. In other words, encouraging disablist hate crimes is good. Mencap have launched an Email campaign against Ofcom's ruling

Today the Independent ran a column filled with offensive language, praising Ofcom's decision, and slamming 'political correctness'. Yes, the same paper that also today declared David Askew's death a "tragedy" and asked "Could nothing have been done to protect him?" The Independent's right hand wants the right to call disabled people offensive names while the left hand wants to protect people like David Askew. Apparently the editor is completely oblivious to the fact that Askew was no doubt repeatedly called a "retard" during his decade of harassment.

The Pilkington case might have brought the public's awareness of disablist hate some way forward but with Ofcom and the Independent declaring that disablist hate speech is not only acceptable but a good thing we've still got a long way to go.

Edit: For those of you who think that not wanting to be subjected to hate speech is "political correctness gone mad;" Here's Johnny Knoxville (really not known for his PCness) and his friend and colleague Eddie Barbanell on why the word "retard" is not acceptable:

Edit 22nd March: Today there are finally a couple of news stories containing both "David Askew" and "disability hate crime" on bbc.co.uk and in The Independent.

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