A Bill currently before the Ohio Senate would add Disability as a protected category under the Ohio Hate Crime Law. Currently, slightly more than half of the U.S. States include Disability as a category, but 23 states (including Ohio) do not include disability as a protected class. The impetus for Bill 349 adding disability to the Hate crime law was an attack on Ashley Clark, an Ohio High School senior, earlier this year allegedly by two other teens. Clark was tied up, had her hair cut off, had her prom dress destroyed, beaten with a baseball bat, and robbed. She was allegedly targeted because of a mental disability.
Where hate crime laws that include disability as a protected category are in place, however, the real issue seems to be how do we determine when a crime committed against a person with a disability is a hate crime? Here in Canada, for example, the federal government reported that only 5 hate crimes against people with disabilities occurred in 2006, as compared to 506 hate crimes related to race and 80 related to sexual orientation.
It appears that it is not enough to identify a crime against a person with a disability to be a hate crime, just because the person is targeted because of a disability or just because the perpetrator uses derogatory statements about the person’s disability while committing the crime. As a result, the number of reported hate crimes against people with disabilities remains low, while the number of crimes committed against them remains incredibly high.
For information on specific hate crimes against people with disabilities, see: