Many disabled people are exempt from wearing a face covering. As the new legislation was introduced on Friday for people to wear face covering in shops it has raised serious concerns about the rising tide of coronavirus-related disability hate crime, amid fears that this could increase even further.
Despite those exemptions, many disabled people who cannot wear face coverings have already been subjected to disability-related hostility online and while travelling on public transport, where it is already compulsory – except for those with exemptions – to wear a face covering.
Police say that they both want tore-assure and support disabled people in terms of real hostility and remind our communities that verbal abuse can still be recognised as a potential hate crime and as such will not be tolerated.
Already there have been reports of disabled people being verbally abused, spat at and in some instances physically attacked. For example, one disabled passenger on public transport, who cannot wear a face covering, was targeted by another passenger, who shouted: “This person hasn’t got a mask. This person is trying to infect us. They are trying to kill us.”
Everyone should take notice and ensure that disabled people are not bullied out of any normal life and the police would like to remind the public that the added pressure of fear should not be added to an already difficult situation. Potentially there are thousands of disabled people who fear for their safety and therefore will not leave their homes and become more isolated and lonely and for those that do go out, may experience fear and anxiety, possible conflict with public and police and demands to prove our impairment/illness.
In a recent survey carried out it was found 62 per cent of DDPOs (deaf and disabled people organisations) reported an increase in disability hate crime referrals on the previous week.
Disability hate crime during the coronavirus pandemic has not come from nowhere – the image of disabled people as virus spreaders and taking resources from non-disabled people must be addressed.
Many disabled people have reported that they are scared to go out because people are not just being hostile, they do not care that being disabled makes it hard and they feel totally scared and boxed in with zero support.