Posted 12.05.2022

Nuala Toman, Disability Action's Head of Policy, says it's time to Break the Silence on the abuse of d/Deaf and disabled people in an article in VIEWDigital.

d/Deaf and disabled people are more likely to experience abuse in all its forms than non-disabled people1. This includes increased risk of hate crime, include physical and sexual violence, forced treatment, and restraint. The risk can be greater within institutional settings.

In January 2019 Professor Roy McClelland, Chair of the Bamford Review, stated that the abuse at Muckamore Abbey Hospital could be the tip of the iceberg and that testimonies from parents of adult children with learning difficulties were a disturbing listen2. A series of investigations into Dunmurry Manor have documented disturbing accounts of physical and sexual abuse3. Families in these cases have been vocal about the absence of dedicated provision to effectively process their concerns and complaints regarding the abuse of their family members pointing to lengthy delays4.

Experiences and allegations of maltreatment, malnourishment, neglect physical, emotional and sexual abuse of d/Deaf and disabled people are not quality assurance issues. The abuse of d/Deaf and disabled people should not be dealt with through a complaints procedure. d/Deaf and disabled people, families and carers need access to specialist advocacy services, access to justice, and accessible specialist provision5. No d/Deaf and disabled person should experience exploitation and abuse. The grim reality is that we do, and we do by greater proportions than others6. The grim reality is that many d/Deaf and disabled people are experiencing abuse alone and unsupported.

d/Deaf and disabled people, carers, and families need access to advocacy to assist us to navigate through complaints and legal systems, to overcome well-documented communication barriers, physical barriers, and misperceptions. d/Deaf and disabled people need access to legal redress. It’s long past time for the provision of fully accessible services for d/Deaf and disabled people who experience exploitation and abuse. This includes inclusive housing options, inclusive mental health and wellbeing services, and ways to ensure that complaints are heard and actioned without delay and that there are mechanisms in place to facilitate greater access to the justice system.

It’s time to Break the Silence on the abuse and exploitation of d/Deaf and disabled people.

If you have been impacted by any of the issues raised in this article do not hesitate to get in touch at [email protected].

Read the article in VIEWDigital

1 Toman, N (2021) Progress Towards the Implementation of the UNCRPD in Northern Ireland. Belfast: ECNI

2 BBC (2019): Muckamore Abbey Hospital: Problems ‘could be tip of iceberg (accessed 10 May 2022).

3 BBC (2018) Care home residents faced ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’ (accessed 10 May 2022)

4 BBC (2022) Dunmurry Manor: Review finds family complaints ‘not addressed’ (accessed 10 May 2022).

5 Disability Action (2022) Response to Stopping Domestica and Sexual Violence in NI. Disability Action: Belfast:

6 DFC (2020) Disability Strategy Expert Panel Report (accessed 10 May 2022).