A disabled man was assaulted on Sunday by three teenagers who have targeted him before.
The 29-year-old man was approached by two boys and a girl who pulled his shopping bag from his grasp, pushed him, verbally abused him and threw his shopping around Tenth Avenue, Luton.
Mick Dillon, chief executive of Disability Resource Centre (DRC) in Poynters Road, said these types of incidents are sadly all too common.
He added: “Disabled hate crime is common and it is increasing. This is partly because of better reporting and because police do take it more seriously.
“It can take any form - verbal or physical abuse, on the streets and in homes. It’s all types of things. It is now nationally recognised as a hate crime.
“It’s pure bullying. If these people take time to reflect and think how they would want their family members to be treated if they had a disability, it would not be like this.”
The DRC, an independent charity which has been operating for 20 years in Poynters Road, offers information and advice to disabled people.
Mr Dillon said: “The key thing is for everyone with a disability to know what they will accept and what they will not accept. If something is not acceptable they have to act on it. Either at the time or soon after they can contact local authorities and the police.”
Mr Dillon, who uses a powered wheelchair, said he does not usually experience hate crime like this.
He said: “The most vulnerable people are often the ones targeted. I can handle myself but someone in their 70s who is looking very frail can be more of a victim.
“When you are abused or discriminated against, the first thing you feel is shock that you are being targeted. If you can get away from the bullies or shout and draw attention to what’s going on that’s good because what bullies don’t like is attention. They know what they are doing is wrong and tend to only do it when there’s no one around to see or they think they can get away with it. It’s not acceptable. Any discrimination is unacceptable and people who commit these hate crimes are just bullies.”
Paul Curry, who lives in Sundon Park and has a disability, said he hasn’t experienced abuse like this incident but he does get disability-based verbal abuse a couple of times a year.
He said: “I ignore it or answer back with a smart answer. It tends to be passing comments like ‘spastic’ if I don’t get out of idiots’ way. I’ve grown up with it so ignore it or take the mick. I’m not typical. I’m smart, confident and cocky when I need to be. I’ve grown up disabled. Others will take it more to heart.”
Luton Borough Council has been running a safeguarding campaign encouraging people to report incidents of adult abuse, including those being abused because of their disability.
A county-wide strategy is also under development - due for launch in Spring/Summer 2014 - which will include a local implementation plan relating to disability hate crime.
A council spokesman said: “We would encourage anyone who thinks that they might be a victim of a disability hate crime to tell somebody if they feel threatened or are subject to an incident. You can tell friend, family member, carer or the police on 101 (999 in an emergency). Victims can also report incidents to Stop Hate UK who are an independent charity which may be particularly helpful if they aren’t sure if it was a crime and want to talk it through with someone.”
If you suspect an adult is being abused call 01582 54 77 30 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For help and advice visit www.drcbeds.org.uk or call the DRC on 01582 470900.
Appealing for witnesses PC Jag Dhillon said: “The victim in this case is vulnerable and has experienced this type of abuse before by the same group of people. We need to stop this behaviour now and I would urge anyone who witnessed the incident on Sunday or anyone who can help identify those responsible to contact the police.”
The offenders are described as a mixed race boy, a white boy and a white girl.
Call PC Dhillon on 101 with information.