David Wilkin's 2020 publication Disability Hate Crime: Experiences of Everyday Hostility on Public Transport is part of a series titled "Palgrave Hate Studies" published by Palgrave MacMillan. Wilkin's book focuses on hate crimes experienced by disabled people on public transportation in the United Kingdom — a research area that has not received the attention it certainly warrants. In this book, Wilkin reveals the dark side of human nature as he provides detailed incidents and everyday experiences of disabled individuals using public transportation. Furthermore, he explains the impact of these experiences on the disabled victims and provides recommendations on ways to improve this mode of transportation for people with disabilities moving forward.

Wilkin commences this book by explaining his own personal diagnosis of autism and how that disorder negatively impacted his childhood not only in school, but also on public transportation, explaining that although he was unaware at the time, he was indeed "the victim of acts which [later] became recognized as hate crimes" (144). Years later, after retiring from a career as a train driver/instructor, Wilkin became a criminologist who was appointed Lead Coordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network in the U.K. Wilkin explains that these life events are what led to his passion to research disability hate crime and, through this book, he provides readers with an "understanding of hate crime and the concepts of disability [and] to finding out how this research was undertaken…[and] reveal the horror or everyday abuse on U.K. public transport…[and]disclose that those who are charged with safeguarding disabled people using public transport in the U.K. have mainly been failing to do so" (151). In the carefully organized chapters throughout this text, Wilkin accomplishes his goal of furnishing his readers with this information. Although startling and disturbing, the detailed first-hand experiences from his interviews provide valuable insights into the frequent unsettling encounters of people with disabilities on public transportation.

For his research methodology, Wilkin included seventy participants: "Victim and witness interview participants contributed via semi-structured interviews and these numbered 26. Those who contributed via focus group numbered 30. Further 14 public transport staff contributed via structured interviews" (578). All of the participants of the semi-structured interviews and the focus groups either self-declared as having a disability, or they were witnesses to an act of hostility. Wilkin is careful to observe and reference the complexities of this qualitative research including limitations with vulnerabilities and intersectionality; he also meticulously notes the questions asked of the public transport staff who contributed to the research via structured interviews.

The data collected for his research included first-hand accounts and experiences of the victims that were troubling; accounts of both active and passive abuse are included, with most narratives revealing the alienation and dehumanization of the disabled victims who often assert that they were left feeling "humiliated, embarrassed and intimidated in the immediate aftermath of a hate crime or incident" (996). Without a doubt, in many of the accounts, the most disturbing revelation is that the other passengers would often participate in the abuse after the initiating abuser encouraged their involvement. Ableist mindsets such as these are troubling, indeed. Dr. Jay Dolmage, author of Disability Rhetoric, states that ableism "positively values and makes able-bodiedness compulsory…[and] renders disability as abject, invisible, disposable, less than human, while able-bodiedness is represented as at once ideal, normal and the mean or default" (22). Certainly, abuse — and encouragement of abuse — of disabled people indicates an ableist set of attitudes, but when the public transport staff often does nothing to alleviate the ill treatment of passengers with disabilities, as Wilkin includes detailed incidents of in several of the first-hand accounts, abusers may feel empowered.

People with disabilities are an incredibly varied, complex, and diverse community. Throughout history, they have been invisible, alienated, marginalized, and dehumanized. In Wilkin's research, readers are apprised of just some of the experiences of people with disabilities on public transportation, the impact that this abuse has on the victims and witnesses, and Wilkin's recommendations for improvement. Without a doubt, David Wilkin's Disability Hate Crime: Experiences of Everyday Hostility on Public Transport raises awareness of hate crimes directed toward disabled people and unquestionably encourages change within the public transportation network.

This book is a must-read for academics with a concentration on disability rhetoric and anyone employed in public transportation or law enforcement.

Works Cited

  • Dolmage, Jay T. Disability Rhetoric. Syracuse University Press, 2014;2013.
  • Wilkin, David. Disability Hate Crime: Experiences of Everyday Hostility on Public Transport. E-book, Leicester UK, Palgrave MacMillan, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-28726-9
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Copyright (c) 2021 Heather Hartness

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