Disability Hate Crime in West Yorkshire
Last week it was disappointing to hear on the radio that disability hate crime in West Yorkshire is higher than anywhere else in the country.
Since the 1980s the disability movement has fought tirelessly to validate the disabled identity. This is in response to the ‘medical model’ which has dominated the field of disability for many years and which seeks to assess, diagnose and cure disability. In contrast, the affirmative model views disability as a valid part of a person’s identity. It is something that does not need to be eradicated because it constitutes a key part of a person’s identity. The social model also suggests that disability is socially created rather than something which is located within the individual.
It is concerning, given the worldwide movement for inclusive education, that some people still seek to ridicule people who are different. The terminology is not helpful because the words ‘disabled’ and ‘disability’ suggest that there are characteristics within people that are lacking. It is deficit language. These terms suggest an inferiority to a socially constructed norm and create an ‘othering’ effect. The term ‘neuro diversity’ is more preferable to terminology which suggests that the individual has a deficit.
We need to reach a stage where a disability is seen as a positive aspect of a person’s identity. It does not need to be ‘corrected’ because to do so would eradicate a person’s identity. We need to provide positive validation for difference and celebrate difference rather than viewing difference as something to be feared or ridiculed.
Schools in West Yorkshire should review their curriculum content to ensure that issues of disability are being addressed. In the words of Nelson Mandela, education is the most powerful weapon to change the world. Schools play a critical role in challenging prejudice and hate. Providing children and young people with a curriculum that addresses disability also has implication for teacher training. We need to prepare new teachers so that they can confidently take this forward in schools. The new Education Inspection Framework provides an opportunity for schools to contextualise their curriculum programmes to address local community needs. In West Yorkshire the level of disability hate crime suggests that this is a local need that schools should address.
Jonathan is Professor of Inclusive Education. His research focuses on LGBTQ+ inclusion and mental health. He is a researcher, teacher educator and qualified teacher.