Research examining the cyber-victimisation of disabled people in Scotland during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic had reshaped our lives and raised concerns among Human Rights organisations over the escalation of discrimination against disabled people.


Discrimination against disabled people is a disturbing phenomenon that existed since ancient history. The use of electronic communication in our daily life, such as using social media or text messages, has created an online context beyond geographical boundaries. This has its benefits, but in turn, also facilitated online harassment and online disability hate experiences. Negative online experiences have multi-level impacts on physical health, mental wellbeing, social circumstances, and economic factors (1). This results in poor health outcomes and widening health inequalities, hence, it is one of the societal challenges. Despite this impact, the support available to disabled persons varies, and the level of harassment usually surpasses the level of support and training given to healthcare professionals and instrumental channels to respond to these cases. 

The COVID-19 pandemic had reshaped our lives and raised concerns among Human Rights organisations over the escalation of discrimination against disabled people (2). Subsequently, disability hate crime statistics in England and Wales have increased from 8,465 in 2019/20 to 9,208 in 2020/21, which represents a 9% increase (3). Disability hate incidents in Ireland have also increased from 83 to 119 incidents (4). Scotland recorded the highest number of disability hate charges reported since the legislation came into force in 2010, the increase in disability hate statistics was by 14% (5). These numbers do not represent the full picture, and online disability hate incidents remain under-reported (6). 

The current research examines the scope and impact of cyber-victimisation of disabled people in Scotland during the COVID-19 pandemic. We use the term ‘cyber-victimisation’ in this research to cover a range of negative online experiences. The aim is to investigate this disturbing phenomenon and utilise the findings to inform practice, improve the support available to disabled persons and challenge this discriminatory scene. 

If you live in Scotland, you can help by filling out this survey (if you are eligible) or sharing the link with your connections. 

References

1.            Alhaboby ZA, Barnes J, Evans H, Short E. Cyber Victimisation of People with Chronic Conditions and Disabilities: A Systematic Review of Scope and Impact. Trauma, Violence & Abuse. 2017;20(3):398–415.

2.Disability Rights UK. Covid 19 and the rights of disabled people 2020 [Available from: Disability Rights UK.]

3.            Home Office. Hate crime, England and Wales, 2020 to 2021 2021 [Available from: Gov.UK.]

4.            Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. Incidents and Crimes with a Hate Motivation Recorded by the Police in Northern Ireland 2021 [Available from: Police Service Northern Ireland.]

5.            Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. Hate Crime in Scotland, 2020-21 2021 [Available from: Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.]

6.            Alhaboby ZA, Al-Khateeb HM, Barnes J, Jahankhani H, Pitchford M, Conradie L, et al. Cyber-disability hate cases in the UK: the documentation by the police and potential barriers to reporting.Cybersecurity, Privacy and Freedom Protection in the Connected World: Springer; 2021. p. 123-33.


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