Image 1: pic L-R; PCSO David Moulsdale - WMP, Cllr Chaman Lal, Councillor Waseem Zaffar, Sue Bushell from Birmingham Guide Dogs, Mohammed Rashid - guide dog user and Solo the guide dog, Raj Rattu-community member and Deepika – HD Eye Clinic
Blind and partially sighted people who use guide dogs are welcome across the city. This is the message behind an important initiative designed to raise awareness of the issues that people with disabilities who live in the city, face on a daily basis.
Hate Crime Week, launched on Saturday 8th October, marks the start of a week of activity across the country aimed at raising awareness of hate crime across all of its strands – disability, faith, gender identity, race and sexual orientation. By raising awareness, it is hoped that communities can work together with statutory agencies to support those people who have been impacted by hate crime and to also encourage future reporting of hate crime.
Sue Bushell, Community Engagement Officer for Guide Dogs Birmingham Mobility Team said:
“Hate Crime Awareness Week is a real opportunity for us to highlight that guide and other registered assistance dogs are not pets and under the Equality Act 2010 can go to most places that their owners go. If anyone is in any doubt or wants to know more we can provide information and welcome people getting in touch with us. Too often I hear from guide dog owners who have been refused access to a shop, restaurant or hotel and have struggled to get a taxi to take them. It can get to the point where they don’t want to go out and as a charity whose aim is to ensure people with sight loss can be independent, mobile and have the same freedom of movement as everyone else, this is very frustrating.”
Guide dog users in the city have been describing their experience of life and some of the issues they face on a regular basis. Mohammed from Sparkhill added:
“When I go out on my own or with my family I just want to be treated like anyone else. The fact that I have my guide dog with me should not make any difference, but unfortunately sometimes it does. I have experienced disability hate crime, I have been refused access to shops and struggled to book a taxi, even when I have booked one sometimes they have driven away as the driver won’t take my dog. It not only upsets me but it has a big impact on my family and makes me feel humiliated. There really is no need for it. We should all work together as a community. When I heard about this awareness week I wanted to take part because I believe it should be stopped”.
Birmingham Hate Crime Reduction Partnership has been working with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association to look at how partner agencies can help tackle this discrimination.
The Partnership, made up of representatives from Birmingham City Council, West Midlands Police, the Crown Prosecution Service, Victim Support, Probation Services, community organisations and other agencies has been analysing hate crime data for a number of months and particularly since the EU referendum vote in June 2016. Since then, Birmingham has had an increase of 6% in reported hate incidents. Currently 85% of these, relate to race hate crime, 9% to homophobic hate crime, 3% is religious hate crime and 1% relate to transgender hate crime– the remaining 2% comprises of reports where the type of hate crime is unknown. West Midlands Police receive approximately 45 hate related reports for Birmingham each week. The level of reporting remains stable and is below levels currently experienced elsewhere within the UK.
Cllr Waseem Zaffar, Birmingham City Council Cabinet Member for Transparency, Openness & Equality added:
“National Hate Crime Awareness Week is an important event, as it sees so many organisations working together to raise awareness about hate crime and taking action wherever they can. Our guide dog user Mohammed has experienced problems in retail outlets and when using taxis and we want to use this week to raise awareness that not allowing guide dogs into their shops or into their vehicles is unacceptable. Birmingham City Council’s Licensing Team has previously prosecuted drivers who have refused passengers with assistance dogs. It is a matter that we always treat seriously.
“It’s important that we all continue to work together to ensure that those people who have been impacted by hate crime know where and how they can access support and the different options available to them. We want to continue to raise awareness of hate crime and see all perpetrators brought to justice and our communities made safer.”
Notes to Editors:
- Please contact Natasha Bhandal on 0121 303 8727 or Birmingham City Council Newsdesk on 0121 303 3287.
- Hate crime is any criminal offence committed against a person or property that is motivated by hostility towards someone based on their actual or perceived disability, race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation, which is a factor in determining who is victimised. A victim does not have to be a member of a group and anyone could be a victim of a hate crime.
- West Midlands Police encourages any person experiencing hate related incidents or crimes to report it directly to their local police on 101 (non-emergency number) or alternatively via the True Vision website (http://report-it.org.uk/home).
- Birmingham Guide Dogs is the working name for the Guide Dogs for Blind Association based in Harborne.