“I’ve been told to go and euthanise myself”: The Realities of Disability in the UK with JD Weaver; Singer-Songwriter and Disabled Rights Campaigner (Part One).

JD Weaver is a 20-year-old singer songwriter from Crewe, who was diagnosed in primary school with muscular dystrophy. Not that that’s stopped him: he claims to write as many as 20 songs a week, last year released his debut EP Where Eagles Fly and is working on his first album, Neon Soul, this summer. He is also an activist, not just for the disabled but for LGBT rights and racial matters also. I spoke to him about his upcoming record, but first he painted to me a sorry picture of the state of attitudes to, and support for, disabled people in Britain in the 21st century.

Can you briefly outline your daily experiences as a member of the disabled community in Britain?

Recently hate crimes against the disabled are actually on the rise. I talk to a lot of people inside the community, and many of them have been attacked, some of them hospitalised – and very little of it has been reported. There are people I know who’ve been beaten up. I’ve been out on the street and verbally abused by elderly people.

What have people said to you on the street?

Words that should be gone by now, words like ‘spastic’, ‘cripple’, ‘retard’… I’ve been told to go and euthanise myself. All the terms that have been used over decades against disabled people, wrapped up in one.

It’s shocking to me because, as you say, it’s not often reported: and in my mind nobody uses those words anymore…

I always say to people that just because you don’t see something, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Just because I haven’t been racially abused, it doesn’t mean I don’t know that racism isn’t there. The best way to gain knowledge isn’t to read false statistics. One of my Native American friends says that to find truth you have to go and seek it yourself, not try to get it through somebody else – the best way to find out about these things is to ask people from these communities directly; say to them “tell me your experiences”, don’t tell them what’s going on. Somebody tells me how disabled people are treated, but it’s rarely the reality. That’s the reality they write for me. Over 60,000 disabled people are attacked every year in the UK. 80% of disabled people are out of full time employment. The government will try and confuse that by saying it’s actually 60% who are unemployed but that fails to take part-time jobs and volunteer jobs into account: volunteer jobs make up around 15% of the 80% they claim. People don’t know that disabled people are 70% poorer than the average member of society in the UK. (more…)