Belfast Telegraph

Belfast MS patient claims public needs educated on illness

An MS Society poll found widespread issues with misunderstanding and prejudice among the public when it comes to understanding the illness (stock photo)
An MS Society poll found widespread issues with misunderstanding and prejudice among the public when it comes to understanding the illness (stock photo)
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

A Belfast man with multiple sclerosis (MS) is calling for greater understanding of the illness.

Rodney Ashe, who has been living with MS for 14 years, has spoken out about how the condition - which affects over 4,500 people in Northern Ireland - impacts on his daily life.

It comes ahead of this year's MS Awareness Week, which runs until Sunday.

MS is a condition that can affect the brain and spinal cord, causing a wide range of symptoms, including problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation or balance.

An MS Society poll found widespread issues with misunderstanding and prejudice among the public when it comes to understanding the illness.

Mr Ashe said that since his diagnosis nearly 15 years ago, he has experienced "some negativity in the most surprising places".

"It's strange, I don't think you would tell someone they don't look like they've got cancer but with other conditions, people think that is okay," he said.

"To be honest lots of people just don't seem to understand MS or disability more widely.

"People close to me understand but when you widen that out, most people just don't have a clue.

"Sometimes I stumble going to the car or when I am out shopping and more often than not people will raise their eyes at me and stare.

"A lot of people assume I have had a drink and they look at you with disgust like 'what is he doing, it's 3 o'clock in the afternoon'."

The survey also found that 93% of respondents believed people who don't have MS don't understand what it is, 92% wanted greater understanding of MS, while 60% said they have experienced prejudice because of their condition.

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