Bullying and disability



Two news stories caught my attention this week. One was the outgoing message of Australia’s Disability Commissioner Graeme Innes, and the other is the bullying faced by disabled school children. I immediately knew that the two were linked.

Education about diversity and disability needs to start as early as possible. Discrimination, stereotyping and prejudice are not born qualities, which means they can be eradicated. Getting rid of bullying altogether is not something I see happening anytime soon although I would love to see that day. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be taking drastic steps to reduce it for the sake of all children, disabled or not. It is worth mentioning that teenagers perpetrate the bullying mentioned in this article, which is all the more reason why we should be implementing long-standing and effective education about people of difference.

The natural curiosity of children means that they will of course ask questions when someone enters the classroom that has a visible point of difference. In fact I would even go so far as to say that this is something that needs to be encouraged in order to increase awareness about the reality of minorities. From what I’ve seen and experienced, once they know abilities and limitations they instantaneously are willing to accommodate accordingly.

Therefore it makes me wonder why once we get to workforce, employers are unwilling to make those same considerations and modifications. Where are we going wrong? Is it a flawed education system where students are congratulated for standardising to the ‘norm’ rather than nurturing their own differences and strengths? Or is it an obsession with profit and cost cutting at the expense of the wellbeing of entire communities? I would say it’s a combination both.

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The only thing stopping a person with a visual impairment practicing law is the hoards of people saying that it can’t be done before making sure that it indeed doesn’t happen. I would say that this is a form of bullying.

Until we change our focus from standardisation and pressuring others to conform to taking care of one another so that we can all move forward together, this cycle with surely perpetuate.


  1. In my personal experience I have always encouraged questions about my disability although it was harder as a teenager and young adult when blending in was a major motivation.

    I believe it is paramount to create a society where diversity and curiosity are valued and encouraged and standardisation and prejudice are banished.

    Empowerment should start at a very young age whoever you are and continue through life and all its facets. Well said Latifa.

  2. Yes Latifa and Alex I agree with you.

    If the bullying isnt sorted out at the teenage years, then these bullies will simply continue to bully in adulthood. And if these bullies then become biz owners, or school principals, or corporate eggs, then a disabled person doesnt stand a fair shot with them at all.

    Also, the bullying from WINZ and ACC towards those of us with disabilities is chronic, and rather than these govt corporations employing kind and helpful frontline people to deal with societies disabled people – they dont – they deliberately employ people with no empathy (sociopaths)!


    A huge attitude adjustment must be made.
    It can start at govt level, and filter through our education systems.

    I always ask why because it can be so easy. If only the person at the very top had a care and designed it to work, rather than to fail.

    At the end of the day, and by their behaviour, I believe it is by design to ‘keep’ the disabled oppressed by bullying – ‘keep’ them out of sight.
    Sickening and disheartening, as it is designed to be.


  3. My lesser experience of bullying was long before teenage years, when I was not bullied. I suspect you need to focus on early years. Teenage is too late. The rot has set in fairly well by then. Of course, we should still fight it at all times. (I voted 5 stars!)

  4. New Zealand society would benefit at least a bit rather instantly, if that Bully Minister of Social Development would get thrown out of her job, perhaps to swap jobs with a cleaner in Parliament buildings.

    With her should go Principal Health Advisor Dr Bratt, and his ideology taken up from Professor Mansel Aylward, from the UK, where he brought in work ability tests, that enforced new “norms” for alleged “malingerers” on disability benefits paid by DWP.

    Them and some of the less helpful WINZ “case managers”, being too “target” focused and “performance driven”, are bullies I can think of. Others are not so, and they should be encouraged.

    And yes, we would perhaps achieve something, if employers would also be “incentivised” and at the same time held accountable, to give disabled a fair chance in employment that at least some of them can do as well as those without impairments.

    But what we have here now, is more pressure on sick and disabled on benefits, and even expectations in GPs and other health professionals, to keep the sick and impaired beneficiaries “on their toes”, and not give them much time to “become a burden” to society.

    Too much seems to have been tried back to front, I fear, and only a change in government may offer at least a tiny bit of hope for improvements.

    WINZ and MSD are hiding info from us by the way:

  5. Yes Marc.

    And ACC bully the victims they are supposed to be helping!
    They bully the victims of violent and sexual crime – just because they can!

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