In the third episode of YDRF About Disability Hate podcast, Olivia sits down with Miles to talk about disability hate. They discuss the dangers of labelling, especially of people with hidden disabilities, the potential positive impacts of the pandemic, pressures some disabled people feel to justify their disability, and much more.
One recurring idea that Miles discussed was the idea of people’s vulnerabilities. He believes that vulnerabilities, whether real or perceived, lie at the centre of disability hate. On this, Miles shares,
“We are all human, we all have feelings and emotions – and some of us are very vulnerable to certain situations, very vulnerable to pressures from other people… And I think people, very sadly, in society play on people’s vulnerability and some people will spot it and use it to their advantage. And that’s a horrible thing.”
In their discussion on how the pandemic has affected disability hate, Miles offers a potential positive impact. He explains,
“I think the pandemic probably has allowed people to be just who they are without having to disclose any recognisable disability….The pandemic got society to actually look at each other and look at your own values. And I think we started to have a lot more compassion, a lot more care for other people… It was a weirdly nice place where people actually started to look after each other more…”
He does, however, understand that there are harmful effects as well – he talks about individuals using social media to harm people while hiding behind their anonymity. Now that the pandemic has lessened and more people are back out, he worries that disability is more visible and coming alongside greater labelling and harm.
The issue of labelling and stigma is one that has been brought up by other podcast guests as well. One way of understanding stigma is that it refers to any negative attitude, prejudice, or false belief associated with specific traits, circumstances, or symptoms. When stigma exists on a societal level, it can be damaging for entire groups of people. Miles describes his own experience of living with a hidden disability and the judgement that often comes along with it. His peripheral neuropathy – a physical and neurological condition – has allowed him to see just how people’s judgments and perceptions of his behaviours are not only often wrong, but indicate their own prejudices. He describes the impact of labelling.
“Disabilities have labels attached to them and then people’s assumptions automatically say ‘well, because I now know this about you, I might treat you in a different way…’. Other people judge and label people and once you have that judgement or label, it’s very difficult to get some people to look beyond that.”
His suggested remedy for this is to “treat people as they are, not what they are labelled with, and treat them as a human.”
It appears that people are making an effort to do just that; Miles mentions that it has been good to see that since the pandemic, people have been seeing the gaps in their community and setting up groups and organisations to intentionally address those.
This episode was incredibly insightful, and I join Miles in agreement that:
“If we could all have the values around caring for others, looking out for others, being considerate of others’ needs, but not taking advantage of them, then society would probably be a much nicer place.”
We are very grateful to Miles for the honesty and vulnerability he brought to sharing his experiences and insights with us. And thank you, for reading and listening as well.
Miles contributed to Homeless Bound, a project which brought together 20 people with direct experience of homelessness to collaboratively create content for a book uncovering how public misconceptions of homelessness continue to shape public attitudes.
If you or anyone you know has been targeted with a disability hate crime, please know that there are several resources available to you.
- For information about reporting or support following an incident, please visit our disability hate webpage.
- York Ending Stigma aims to get people share experiences of mental health to help end mental health stigma and discrimination in York.