Disability Horizons writer Raya AlJadir speaks to disability activist and blogger JD Weaver, who campaigns for the rights of not only disabled people, but all marginalised groups. We find out more about what drives JD, whose blogging alias is the Anarchic Cripple, to continually fight for people’s rights.
Can you tell Disability Horizons readers a little bit about yourself?
My name’s JD Weaver. I am a 20-year-old disability-rights campaigner and activist from Cheshire, UK.
I was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) in 2005. Since then, I have been active in challenging preconceptions about disability and fighting for equality for those who are currently marginalised in our society.
Unfortunately, where I live is very regressive, and I feel trapped by the mentality of a lot of people. But it only serves to drive me to continue to spread my message.
Can you tell us a bit more about how Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy affects you in your daily life and what obstacles you face?
DMD causes progressive muscle weakness, as well as nerve damage. Living with the disability is a constant struggle. Most days I am in pain above the waist. But I fight through it to do exercises for my arms using a machine. This will hopefully keep them stronger for longer.
When I was diagnosed, I felt as though all my childhood and innocence had been taken away from me. Instead of seeing a world of hope and love, I was looking out to a world of violence and intolerance. I was no longer JD, I was ‘that disabled guy’.
At school, I was treated as an alien, and suffered physical and mental abuse from students, and even some of the teachers too.
Despite the sadness and often torment I felt because of the betrayal of my body, it has shaped who I am. It has allowed me to see what is truly important in life. It has also given me the passion to fight for others who face similar problems.
What prompted you to be a disability-rights activist and to start campaigning?
If you were to look at my current situation and experiences as a disabled person, along with the realities of being part of a historically marginalised community, becoming a campaigner and activist is natural.
However, even if these weren’t realities I was facing, I would still be fighting for the rights of all human beings. I am an extremely spiritual person, and I believe that we all deserve to be treated equally, with dignity and respect.
Ultimately all of us as humans have a responsibility to care for the earth and provide protection for one another.
The saddest thing for me about inequality, whether it is because of race, sexuality, nationality or ability, is the dehumanisation that often comes with it. People become labelled and people see nothing else.
A metaphor I use regarding disability is that if you imagine a painter having his paintbrush and supplies taken off him, and being denied any chance to buy new tools, how would he be able to paint? In reality, without the tools to economically and socially prosper, disabled people are restricted, unable to achieve and display their talents.
A person can only do so much and, if there is no systemic acknowledgement of wrongdoing, then really you have no way of escaping the wall of inequality that surrounds you.
It makes you feel helpless, it makes you feel like a burden and it makes you feel that no matter how much you cry, the outside world will act with insulated ears, and never truly understand the reality you face.
No human should ever be debased to the point where they feel voiceless, powerless and without pride in their inner beauty. That’s why I fight – because I want nobody to be forced to live an existence similar to my own.
As well as campaigning, can you tell us more about the other work do you do?
I love to write. I have a blog under the alias of The Anarchic Cripple. I decided to use this alias as this hateful slur is regularly thrown at me where I live. Using it is my way of reclaiming the word and taking their power. I write about the emotions and realities a disabled person faces in the current climate.
I also do talks at cafes, universities and many other venues. I want to be able to physically take my message to the people. I often do a talk entitled ‘Four Steps to Isolation and Inequality: A Disabled Person’s Guide to Being Marginalised’, in which I simply let my innermost thoughts about inequality out. So far it has been really well received.
I also like to write and make music, which I have done for the last our years. Unfortunately, my experiences have shown me how there is inequality in the arts, too. It’s a microcosm of society, representing an ‘ideal’ that is nothing like me. It perpetuates this idea of ‘perfection’ and makes people feel self-conscious.
I was told by music label executive that the company wouldn’t take me on as I “didn’t fit the image”. Apparently, even though I created an EP that had thousands of listens, the fact that I was wheelchair bound was what I was measured by.
What do you think of the current government and the way in which disabled people are treated in the UK?
Theresa May, her peers and certain privileged individuals represent values that, to me, are the antithesis of what is naturally in us as human – I over us.
It is the characteristic of greed, irresponsibility and very little regard for the general impact of their actions on the greater society around them. To them, success is based on synthetic ideals. Their ideology says that to be successful we must make money, we must be healthy and we must fit a certain mould.
To me, a person’s usefulness in a society is not determined by anything but the content of their character, and is not influenced by our aesthetics or wealth.
So, as long as I have a soul and whilst I have air in my lungs, I will pour every ounce of my strength and capability into fighting for people’s rights. Hopefully, despite the many setbacks we are currently facing, through campaigning, we see the rise in real change and an overhaul of the archaic systems that has tied us down for too long.
You can follow JD Weaver on Twitter @jdweavermusic.
By Raya AlJadir
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