I am Me, I am Proud
Disability Hate Crime is recognised as one of the most underreported crimes in the UK and Mencap estimates that around 97% of disability hate crimes currently go unreported.
In August 2021, I Am Me Scotland was awarded a grant of £3,000 from The Essentia Foundation to launch a new Down's Syndrome Awareness project that aimed to educate young people on bullying and disability hate crime. Harassment and bullying can start at an early age, and the long-term impact that this sustained treatment has on disabled individuals can be profound.
To tackle this systemic issue, grant monies went towards creating an online learning resource that included a digital lesson and an animated video featuring primary and secondary school pupils with Down's Syndrome. I Am Me Scotland hoped that the project would act as an early-stage prevention method and enable children to accept diversity as part of daily life.
Project activities commenced during the Summer of 2021. I Am Me Scotland contracted a group of professional animators to create the short film, and this was narrated by Chloe, who is eight years old and has Down's syndrome. Six other children with Down's Syndrome provided additional input and commentary for the video, highlighting their achievements and ambitions.
Feedback from this project has been resoundingly positive, and the final animations and videos have been shared widely amongst the charity's network in Scotland. Perhaps the most significant success of this project occurred in November 2021, when the video and its participants were awarded the Ben Cohen Hero award at the Stand-Up Foundation awards ceremony. Speaking about the award, video participant Grace (16) said she was proud to be part of the project:
"I really loved working with I Am Me Scotland and I was proud to be part of the project. It is amazing to win this award and to feel supported in this way just for letting everyone know about Down's Syndrome and how amazing we are and what we can do.”
Grace (16), video participant
I Am Me Scotland's project has gone some way in standing up to the damaging and unfounded stigma around Down's Syndrome. Beyond the immediate, daily issue of bullying, the project has actively sought a way to reduce barriers for disabled people and has planted important messages on inclusion and diversity in the minds of school pupils across Scotland.
I Am Me Scotland was established in 2015. Beginning as a small community group, the charity aims to promote equality and diversity by raising awareness of disability-related harassment and abuse. Service provision includes Keep Safe – a network of 860 safe places for anyone feeling vulnerable when out in the community, I Am Me free resources for raising awareness of disability hate crime, and #MakeaDifference – an educational programme developed with young people to discuss the impact of bullying and the consequences of hate crime. Between 2019-2020, the charity trained over 1,600 people on disability awareness and delivered a training programme to 3,000 school children across Scotland.