I’ve Had Online Hate For Not Looking Disabled
Emily is a Blogger, Content Creator and Vlogger who goes by the name of Fashioneyesta. She also has a condition called Septo Optic Dysplasia, which is a congenital condition that affects her sight and endocrine system.
I make content about style, beauty and disability awareness and have been since 2012. I started making content after to positively change perceptions towards sight loss and disability in general.
Being a blogger you have to learn to accept criticism, it comes with the territory. However, sometimes the comment’s I’ve received have been less critical and more hateful. The hate has always been directed at one thing, my disability.
I’ve received comments from people telling me that I don’t look disabled or that I don’t look like I have a visual impairment. People have outright accused me of faking my disability. When I’ve spoken about my experiences with disability discrimination and inaccessibility, some have tried to invalidate me by telling me that I’m “complaining”. I’ve even had comments from people telling me to do harmful things to myself to “cure” my disability.
In the past, this had a colossal impact on my mental heath, these comments would send my anxiety spiralling out of control. I couldn’t face making videos and so the camera was put away and for long periods of time I would go offline.
People’s hate of my disability stopped me from living my life.
But when I tried to report it I was often left feeling confused, on a lot of platforms there isn’t a specific option for disability hate crime. So I often wondered “do I report a case of bullying, harassment or hate speech?” After long discussions with disabled friends on what category to file my report under I would then block the commenter and try to move on.
Some said, “just don’t go online if you can’t handle it” or “don’t make videos, there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”
But I don’t see that as a solution. Why should the onus be put on disabled people not to use social media? For a lot of the disability community, social media is a vital tool to socialise and thrive when we can’t physically get out to socialise. Having a disability can be very isolating at times, especially when I’m too ill to leave my house. Social media is my key to having a voice and for building an online community.
I’m living proof that online disability hate crime does happen and that it can play havoc with your life. I’m lucky that the comments I receive are pretty tame next to some of the offences I’ve heard about. But that we are living in a society that is becoming more habituated into thinking this kind of abuse towards disabled people is acceptable. According to a new study from disability charity Leonard Charity has risen by 33% in the last year.
It could get worse…
The real responsibility needs to be put onto social media platforms to create a system to report specific hate crimes and to work with local police services to make reporting these crimes easier. More positive disability awareness programmes need to be taught in schools, where disability hate crime and ableism are talked about to young people by disabled people. Disabled influencers should continue to receive elevation and support from social media platforms so that they can continue to spread a positive message.
Disability hate crime needs to be seen for what it is, a crime. Regardless of whether it’s on the street or on a screen.
Have you ever had your disability challenged online? How do you think we can overcome online disability hate crime?
Writer, Blogger and Content Creator