Aggressive or violence response
Sadly, challenging disability discrimination at-the-time or in complaints correspondence can get an aggressive or violent reaction from some Respondents. While the risk seems to be higher with small businesses where the staff may be less ‘professional’, staff of larger organisations can also behave aggressively to and about us as disabled complainants.
Whatever you do, we recommend prioritising your safety and planning ahead to deal with incidents of discrimination.
We hope that by more people standing up for our rights, organisations will realise it isn’t just one unreasonable person, but that there are obligations they have and need to meet.
Swap access complaints with a friend
We know several people who have complained about a simple access failing to small businesses in the hope that access will be provided. Sometimes the respondent can react so negatively that even if access is provided, the complainant then feels unwelcome because of the bad feeling. The threshold for harassment and victimisation is high, and it is hard to prove bad attitudes are unwelcoming and problematic.
One idea we have is to get a disabled friend with similar access needs who lives somewhere else, to make the complaint. If the friend’s complaint achieves improved access, then the local disabled person can use it with a reduced chance of being made to feel unwelcome. It isn’t a zero chance as some people will assume any two disabled people know one another or are plotting against them, and still be unwelcoming.
Courts and aggression/violence
In theory, judges can take aggression and bad behaviour from Respondents into account when deciding damages for “aggravating factors”, or allow a claim for harassment or victimisation (which can be added if incidents occur during the legal process).
In practice, however, judges are rarely disabled or marginalised people with lived experience of being discriminated against on a daily basis. As privileged people, they’re less likely to experience backlash when they assert themselves, because that’s how privileges work.
Some of us have experience of judges making strange assumptions, like “repeated discrimination has less impact on disabled people because it happens so often,” or assumptions that we’re not as distressed as we are, because we don’t behave in the ways they associate with distress.
We don’t really have any answers for this, except to document impacts of discrimination as soon after incidents as possible, and during the aftermath. If things go legal, then consider getting people who see the impact on you to produce a witness statement (which must be 100% truthful). If you have had to seek support from any kind of professional (counsellor, GP etc), ask them to document this for you and submit this as evidence to the court.
Reading the judgment in Leighton v Kahraman shows some of the judge’s legal and other thinking around which incidents of aggressive behaviour from Mr Kahraman counted as harassment, which may give you some idea of the challenges here.