Connect community member Deanne O'Connor, who is deafblind, talks about her experiences with discrimination and offers advice on where to go for help.
People with disabilities have had to face discrimination and social prejudice for years at the hands of those who are abled (i.e. not disabled). Our rights are something that we have to take seriously, but sometimes they are not taken seriously enough and therefore we are persecuted by people, shops or work places. As a result we are made to feel like we are outsiders and different.
This is unacceptable and unethical behaviour. It's a hard topic for me to even try discuss but it needs to brought up, because sometimes I feel that we have no one that empathises with us regarding our vision impairment or our right to live a normal life.
Unfortunately, when you are blind or partially sighted you get judgmental comments from the general public, usually because they are uneducated about sight loss. Some presume that you can see and that you may be lying about your disability – you are not alone in this. There many of us who have had this kind of behaviour shown towards us, and we each have a different way of dealing with offensiveness and disability discrimination.
I had the same treatment when I became severely sight impaired and needed a cane to have my independence back. Some family and friends started to distance themselves from me, and locals were starting to show ignorant behaviour towards me, but I knew it was because they didn’t understand my condition.
The Equality Act legally protects people from discrimination, including disability discrimination. It applies in England, Scotland and Wales. In Northern Ireland similar legislation called the Disability Discrimination Act applies.
Here are some examples of the rights we have:
The right to access everyday goods and services, such as shops, restaurants and banks, who have to give us the ability to enter regardless of our disability
The right to enter these places with a guide dog or another assistance dog – refusal can result in the establishment getting fined
The right to be able to buy or rent property
The right to access private facilities such as golf clubs
The right to access social care and other health care services
The right to access transportation such as buses
The right to 50 per cent off our TV licence
The right to accessible bank cards by NatWest
The right to claim benefits in our own right for disability purposes, like Personal Independence Payment
The right to not pay tax on assistive products we purchase.
Where to find help
There is plenty of help available if you feel that you are a victim of discrimination:
RNIB has a dedicated Legal Rights Service, which can give you information, advice, and where possible, formal representation if you want to challenge discrimination.
Scope, a charity for people with disabilities, has an online member forum. You register to join discussions and can ask for help if you feel you are being victimised for your disability.
Your local police department could help too. They have trained officers to deal with issues like these and they help bring the perpetrators to justice, along with the court.
If you are scared of speaking to the police, you could also go to Citizens Advice if you are in need of advice on discrimination and what to do.
These organisations are there to help, don’t suffer in silence. I know you might think it’s a good idea because you don’t want to make it worse, but it won't get any better if don't speak up for what's right. It’s bullying but on a bigger scale and it’s also illegal. The people discriminating against you can face court and be fined, or even receive jail time.
I hope you find this information helpful. I wrote it because my family were victimised due to my disability and I don’t want it to happen to anyone else. It’s not nice to feel like you’re alone and that you have no one to turn to for support. I wish you all the best, but please don't suffer in silence, speak up for what’s right.