Love in action: no place for hate

Date Published: 21 Feb 2024
Person on stage looking at slide in the background. BSL interpreter can also be seen on stage. Backs of audience sitting in chairs watching them

At Caritas, it’s really important to us that as many people can access our services as possible – everyone is welcome and we’re committed to constantly learning and adapting to ensure that remains the case.

We work with local groups and individuals across Greater Manchester and Lancashire to improve accessibility, from training to advice on practical ways to make communities more accessible, and by holding events too.

Here, Minna, who coordinates our accessibility work, tells us more about a recent event about hate crime and how it was designed to make it as accessible as possible from the outset…


With thanks to the Greater Manchester Hate Crime Awareness Week 2024 grants programme, we were able to facilitate an amazing afternoon that brought people together from different backgrounds to learn about hate crime, share personal stories and increase community cohesion.  We were able to promote a positive perception of disability and celebrate different cultures at home in our city.

As accessibility coordinator, universal design was critical for me when planning this event.  This meant that I wanted to make sure that few accessibility adjustments were needed (if any) because the event was already accessible for most people.

Ways in which I strived to do this was ensuring that the venue was all on ground level (with ramp access to the building) with suitable accessible toilet facilities.  The lay out of furniture was considered to allow adequate space for mobility aids such as wheelchairs and guidelines.  We also had a service dog with us (Flint) who was on his best behaviour.

With thanks to Fr. Kevin Murphy, we used Sacred Heart Parish Centre which also has a stage so that British Sign Language (BSL) could be seen clearly.  This meant that Peter McDonough, Caritas community officer, could be seen as he introduced the speakers using his native British Sign Language (BSL).  For those that were not BSL users there were three English/BSL interpreters who ensured that the event was accessible regardless of whether the speaker used English or BSL. To support those listening, we were able to borrow a microphone and speaker for the event.

Around 130 people attended the event which was fantastic and it was great to see so many people coming together in this way.

We were joined by Sacred Heart Choir who provided music focusing on human dignity and showing love in action to our neighbours.  Food was prepared by Sergio, a parishioner from Sacred Heart parish who donated hot vegan and gluten free food – another point on my universal design plan.  Parishioners also brought extra food on the day and provided ingredient lists so that people could make informed decisions about what they ate.  This idea of food safety and allergy awareness is important when considering accessibility needs.

After the welcomes, Kerry Smith from Greater Manchester Police started the day off with information from her role as diversity equality and inclusion delivery lead and the chair of the GMP Disability Support Network.  It was interesting to learn about how hate crime is considered under the law and that people are often reluctant to report hate crime when it is linked to disability.

Circle Steele from the Wai Yin Society provided an interesting overview of the impact that COVID-19 had on the Chinese community in terms of hate incidents and hate crime.   She works to advocate for cultural diversity, health equality, and bringing social change, for underrepresented groups.

Rebecca Lunness really championed the phrase: “It is not what you can’t do, it is what you can do,” and her talk about her journey to paid employment as a person who has a learning disability received a standing ovation.

Two people close together smiling at camera. One is wearing a black jumper with white shirt beneath and the other a brown cardigan and blue and red checked dress.

After lunch, we were treated to a performance by the local Sacred Heart Choir, which was interpreted along with the presentations into BSL.  This kept the energy up after for a shared meal and networking.

Stewart Rapley, a Ph.D researcher (Autism and Theology) then shared some thoughts from his personal experience of being an adult diagnosed with autism, and about how looking back through his life at work, school and church suddenly “made sense” after his diagnosis.

Jo Palmer from SCOPE gave us an update on what they are doing across the North West to ensure equality for disabled people and more information on developing an understanding of hate crime linked to learning disability and autism.

The final speaker was Fr. Emmanuel Ugwuoke, a Catholic Vincentian priest from Nigeria.  Although Fr. Emmanuel has a lot of history working with disabled people, an accident ten years ago left him with life-changing injuries and a new understanding of the impact of the attitudes of other people.

Three people standing with arms around each other smiling at camera.

All six presentations contributed something different to the event.  Guests have all praised how brilliant it was that the event ran so inclusively, for such a range of people and accessibility needs.  This really shows the benefit of universal design and about how, with planning, an event will run smoothly for a diverse range of guests.

To find out more about our accessibility services, or for details on how to contact Minna for more information, visit this page on our website now:

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