‘Alarming stigmas’ of people towards MS

Liz Schofield with a Halifax Town football shirt worn during the 1971 game against Manchester United, which is to be raffled to raise money for the MS Society

Liz Schofield with a Halifax Town football shirt worn during the 1971 game against Manchester United, which is to be raffled to raise money for the MS Society

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A NEW report has found alarming stigmas and attitudes towards disabled people in Yorkshire.

The MS Society report found “too many people are ignorant and narrow-minded” when considering the lifestyle of people with disabilities, such as multiple sclerosis (MS).

The report coincides with MS week, from April 30 to May 6.

It found 14 per cent of people across the region thing disabled people should accept they cannot have the same opportunities in life as non-disabled people.

One in four believe people often exaggerate their physical limitations.

A separate poll of people with MS found 48 per cent believe people don’t consider them as equal and 30 per cent have been visibly ignored because of their condition.

More than half of people with MS said their symptoms have been mistaken for drunkenness, while 76 per cent have had people questioning the fact they have MS because they “looked well”.

Liz Schofield, branch support officer for Calder Valley’s MS Society, cares for her husband Richard with the condition.

She said: “This is very common. Richard’s right leg has always been a big problem and people have thought he was drunk in the past. Only last week someone said he was looking well. And he does. But you have to walk in someone’s shoes because there are a lot of hidden symptoms with MS.”

MS affects the central nervous system and is usually diagnosed in people in their 20s and 30s. Symptoms can attack at random, resulting in problems with mobility and balance, eyesight, memory and thinking, bladder control and extreme fatigue. Around twice as many women as men have MS.

Mrs Schofield added: “Just because you can’t see that someone has problems, doesn’t mean to say that they don’t. I would ask people not to jump to assumption. Don’t assume that you know anything about it. MS is a highly complex condition.”

Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive of the MS Society, said: “Because it’s poorly understood, living with MS can turn a simple shopping trip or social event into an ordeal – where strange looks and hurtful remarks can all be part of daily life. Yet people with MS have the same aspirations as anyone else. Most want loving relationships, an active social life and a successful career – and they can have this, given the right support and understanding.

The MS Society has launched an appeal this week to raise £500,000 to fund better treatments. Visit www.msfightback.org.uk.