Monthly Archives: September 2010

Disablist hate crime and psycho-emotional disablism: Interconnections and insights (paper, 2010)

Reeve, D. (2010) ‘Disablist hate crime and psycho-emotional disablism: Interconnections and insights’, paper presented at 5th Biennial Disability Studies Conference, Lancaster University, 7-9 September.


Disability hate crime is slowly starting to be recognised as a reality for many disabled people (Sin et al, 2009; Quarmby, 2008) but there are recognized problems with the UK justice system which mean that hostility towards disabled people is often labelled as anti-social behaviour rather than hate crime. The manner in which experiences of disability hate crime are ‘downgraded’ adds further injury to these experiences of systematic violence which are one of the five faces of oppression which minority groups such as disabled people experience (Young, 1990).

Although there are severe incidents of disability hate crime which make the national headlines, it is the daily grind of low-level incidents such as name-calling which affect more disabled people. These examples of psycho-emotional disablism which undermine emotional well-being and self-esteem are cumulative and can be affected by previous experiences of psycho-emotional disablism including internalised oppression. Quarmby (2008) offers a useful discussion of how entrenched disablism within our culture and society, enacted through language and prejudice, means that disability hate crime can exist without being recognised by such, by both victim, perpetrator and others.

In this paper I will present some exploratory ideas about how the concept of psycho-emotional disablism can contribute to theoretical understandings of disability hate crime by considering the following questions:

  • What is the relationship between psycho-emotional disablism and disability hate crime?
  • How might past/present experiences of psycho-emotional disablism impact on a person’s ‘risk’ of being a victim of disability hate crime and the consequential ‘hurt’ that the hate crime causes?
  • How might an understanding of psycho-emotional disablism affect the kinds of support offered to disabled people who experience disability hate crime?
  • What can recent psychoanalytic approaches to the disabled subject (Goodley, forthcoming) contribute to understanding why disability hate crime happens and the (lack of) institutional/societal responses to these crimes?

Although there is a recent body of research which is documenting the experiences of disability hate crime, there is relatively little theoretical disability studies analysis of disability hate crime (although see for example Sherry (2000; 2003; 2010)). In the light of a growing need to address the realities of disability hate crime in the UK, it is hoped that this paper will kindle academic discussions akin to those existing in the related fields of race, religion, sexual orientation and transgender hate crime.

Beyond the social model: The experience of psycho-emotional disablism (paper, 2010)

Reeve, D. (2010) ‘Beyond the social model: The experience of psycho-emotional disablism’, paper presented at RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, Royal Geographical Society, London, 1-3 September.


This paper will discuss the experience of psycho-emotional disablism, which is a neglected dimension of disablism often relegated to the realm of ‘personal trouble’ rather than ‘political issue’ by typical social model analyses of disability.

One way of rectifying this omission is to use an extended social relational definition of disablism (Thomas, 2007). This framework explicitly recognises the social oppression experienced by people with impairments which operates at both the public and personal levels, affecting what people can do (structural disablism) as well as who they can be (psycho-emotional disablism).

Structural disablism includes the barriers typically associated with the social model such as inaccessible environments and discrimination in employment. Psycho-emotional disablism is a form of social oppression which undermines emotional well-being, self-worth and self-esteem such as dealing with prejudicial comments as well as internalized oppression.

Both structural and psycho-emotional disablism can exclude people with impairments – a wheelchair user can be excluded by the reactions of others e.g. the ‘Does he take sugar?’ response from strangers as well as by a flight of steps at the front of a building. Therefore, any sociological understanding of the lived experience of disablism has to take account of social oppression that operates at both the public and personal levels, structural disablism and psycho-emotional disablism.

Drawing on accounts of people with physical impairments I will discuss the complex nature of (in)direct psycho-emotional disablism and reveal how it is intertwined with structural disablism, impairment effects, time, place, space and other facets of someone’s identity.