Hate crimes are largely considered those perpetrated against certain groups or individuals, motivated by the victim's religion, race, or sexual orientation. Indeed, the most widely-publicized incidents labeled as hate crimes are those in which a person is distinctly vocal about his or her disdain for a certain group of people and its beliefs, creeds, or private activities. Yet hate crimes can also be perpetrated against groups of people with disabilities, whether they are primarily physical. mental, or emotional in nature. In fact, studies show that people with learning disabilities are more vulnerable than others to experience bullying, harassment or to be victims of hate crime. In 2007, for example, 79 of the total hate crimes reported nationwide were committed against people with disabilities, a marked increase from the 44 hate crimes against people with disabilities that were reported in 2003.
Historically Few Protections
This group of people includes any person who has mental or emotional issues, including but not limited to: development delays, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and other mental impairments. For much of the 20th century, people with disabilities were often marginalized from so-called “normal” society, and there were no laws specifically forbidding discrimination against them. The Americans with Disabilities Act, the nation’s first civil rights law prohibiting the discrimination of people with disabilities in the workplace, public accommodations, and public services, was not passed until 1990. It may be little wonder, then, that the rate of hate crimes perpetrated against this particular group continues to be an issue.