Guest post from Simon Green, as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.
My name is Simon Green, I live in Bridgend, South Wales. I have a condition called Neurofibromatosis, which along with a freak accident has resulted in me having to use a wheelchair for the past 12 years.
I am Chair of Bridgend Coalition of Disabled People, a Trustee with Disability Wales and Coordinator with the Disability Hate Crime Network.
My life changed straight away, I expected it to, but I did not expect that having to use a wheelchair would result in hostility, but sadly it did. I was verbally abused, called derogatory names and deliberately tipped out my chair, and on one occasion punched in the face. The guy who hit me used the excuse that “he didn’t think it was right for a f***ing spaz to be out with a pretty girl”.
I have spent the past few years campaigning for more awareness in relation to disability related harassment and have heard some horrific stories of both verbal and physical abuse against disabled people.
But over the last three or four years I’ve been hearing more and more about a very different type of abuse, and that’s language like ‘scrounger’ and ‘benefit cheat’, especially against people with more hidden disabilities.
And this is where I come on to politics! Now I would not for a second directly blame any politician or journalist for someone attacking a disabled person but I believe politicians and journalists need to be careful with the language they use.
The power of words
The constant talk of cutting welfare, suggestions that the state of the economy is down to the number of people claiming benefits and phrases such as “Strivers verses Skivers” do not help – and can increase hostility towards the disabled community.
I get extremely angry when such comments are made as they do a huge amount of harm.
Disabled people have votes, and if party leaders want these votes they need to cut down on the inappropriate and demonising comments.
For advice and support call the Scope helpline on 0808 800 3333.