bio_dave_hingsburgerI just recently read one of the most disturbing statistics I’ve ever read regarding the lives of people with disabilities. Any of you who’ve heard me lecture have heard me quote various statistics in evidence of the fact that people with disabilities live in a dangerous world and that we must as professionals, and as people with disabilities ourselves, acknowledge that danger as well as prepare our selves such that the risk that we face is reduced. I have always firmly believed that people with disabilities need to understand the risks inherent in living freely in the community and be prepared to meet those risks with strategies. It’s how I live. It’s how others with disabilities that I know live – even if they’ve never thought of it in those terms. It’s the only way that makes sense.

But acknowledging risk is a difficult thing, it seems for agencies and care providers to do. For example, the research into the abuse of people with intellectual disabilities has been around for nearly thirty years and response to that information, here in Ontario, has been very recent. In some jurisdictions there has been no response at all, which is so neglectful, in my mind, as to be criminal.

I once made the comment that the government should thoroughly investigate any agency that, in a year, has no reported incidents of abuse of the people in their care. Statistics suggest that’s an impossibility. Common sense, when we think of the power imbalance between people with disabilities and their care providers, would dictate that abuse is a probability if not an inevitablity. So, investigate non-reporters.

As I said, earlier, I read a really disturbing statistic, well, set of statistics about hate crimes against people with disabilities here in the city of Toronto. To put these statistics in perspective. Consider that reports from the UK indicate that there has been a steep rise in hate crimes against people with disabilities. Consider also that the FBI, in their most recent report also indicate that there has been an increase in hate crimes against people with disabilities. Now consider the horrifying and frightening statistics here in the city of Toronto. The Toronto Police’s annual reporting on hate crimes for last year and indeed the preceeding two years, indicate that there have been 0 hate crimes against people with disabilities in the city.

Zero.

None.

Nada.

The report does indicate that hate crimes are under reported and come up with 5 reasons this may occur, several of which would apply to people with disabilities, but there isn’t any discussion or indication of concern that people with disabilities are not reporting or if they are that their concerns aren’t making it through the litmus test to become hate crimes. The police can’t not know that other countries and other cities are reporting, sometimes massive, increases in hate crimes against people with disabilities, yet there is no suggestion of a solution to the problem of zero.

Similarly to my suggestion that the government investigate zero reporting in agencies that serve people with intellectual disabilities, I think there needs to be a real look at the zero incidents over a THREE YEAR PERIOD of hate crimes in the city of Toronto. Why is that happening? Why is a zero trend not a signal of concern when it’s in direct opposition to trends in other places?

Why isn’t anyone asking the question?

Perhaps the reason they aren’t asking the question is the reason that we have zero reporting.