Welcome Aboard: Exploring Experiences of Disability Hate Crime on Public Transport and Approaches to Safeguarding Passengers
thesisposted on 25.11.2019, 11:35 by David R. Wilkin
Acts of hostility against people with disabilities remain largely overlooked by academia and the UK government. Despite this, between 2014/15-2016/17 the known incidents of disability hate crime in the UK increased by 249% with hate crime reports on Britain’s railways increasing by 23% between 2015/16-2016/17. Although estimates suggest that 19% of the global population has a disability and whilst public transport is a recognised trigger-environment for hate attacks against disabled people, no dedicated research existed, until now, to understand the victim experience. The key aims of this thesis are to transform academic understanding, methodology and theoretical frameworks.
Public transport providers have an equality duty to protect all passengers; if not undertaken, minority groups remain susceptible. This thesis explores victim experiences through in-depth, semi-structured interviews and focus groups with 56 participants. Public transport staff members were interviewed and policies explored to understand how diligently authorities, providers and staff meet their legal obligations to protect susceptible passengers as obliged by the Public Sector Equality Duty. To enable engagement with people who possess a range of physical and mental disabilities, specific ethical considerations and adaptions were employed and diverse communications facilitated.
Findings reveal everyday abuse, distress and violence affecting disabled passengers and fuelling aversions to using public transport often results in social isolation. Conflicts can be triggered by occupancy of priority spaces with most abuse occurring on buses. Staff members hold little awareness of the problem or confidence to manage it. Most authorities do not discharge their safeguarding obligations, consequently providers are not incentivised to safeguard. The thesis outlines the implications of these findings for scholarship and policy offering recommendations which are designed to raise awareness of the problem and improve access to justice.