MS man 'overwhelmed' by video reaction

By Steven Brocklehurst
BBC Scotland news website

image source, James Johnston
image captionJames Johnston said he had been overwhelmed by reaction to his video

A Scottish man with multiple sclerosis said he was "overwhelmed" by the reaction to a video he posted shaming two men who made him feel "less human".

James Johnston's Facebook video about the incident at the Fort Shopping Centre in the east of Glasgow has been watched more than 800,000 times.

The 27-year-old told the Kaye Adams programme the men had been rude and ignorant and made him feel "rotten".

He said the reaction to the video had been "absolutely fantastic".

James, from Bellshill in Lanarkshire, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis three years ago.

image source, James Johnston
image captionJames has posted a number of videos raising awareness of MS

In the video he is visibly upset as he describes how the men laughed as he tried to pick up his phone from the ground.

James told the Kaye Adams programme it all began when he was rushing to the toilet at the shopping centre and he overtook the men.

He said: "I can't walk in a straight line because of the MS. I'm walking as fast as I can and I feel as though my legs are actually going to give way."

James said he was aware that he "staggers" when he walks and it makes him look drunk.

He said he was used to people staring and his main aim was to reach the toilet in time.

"There is nothing more demeaning than wetting yourself, especially at 27," he said.

When he walked out of the cubicle one of the men he had seen before walked into the toilet, but James ignored him.

"I walked out into the lobby outside the toilets and this guy was looking at his phone and I noticed him looking at me," he said.

"He had a disgusted look on his face."

Rude and ignorant

James tried to phone his partner but she didn't answer. He then saw his step-daughter outside a shop and he tried to get her attention but dropped his phone.

Because he has very little sensation in his fingers he had trouble picking it up.

"These two same guys, one of them stepped over the phone and went 'oops' and the two of them sniggered.

"Fair enough, they didn't know I had got a disability but at the same time, manners don't cost anything."

James said: "I usually just ignore it but this was the straw broke the camel's back. You get used to the stares but you should not need to.

"What they did was rude and ignorant."

He says he posted the Facebook video to raise awareness and to shame the two men, who he hopes might see it.

"It's trying to get across to people don't judge a book by its cover," he said.

"It made me feel less human. I just felt rotten.

"We left the Fort after that. I just said I don't want to be here."

Bad enough

When he got home he posted the video expecting to get a few hundred views.

"It has gone nuts," he says.

"I'm overwhelmed by it because I really didn't expect the feedback that I have got.

"About 99.9% has been absolutely fantastic. There are a couple of people who maybe are ignorant."

Before he was diagnosed with MS, James used to drive buses.

He said finding out he had the condition was "heartbreaking" and admits that he had been ignorant about MS before he was diagnosed.

But he said having the condition was bad enough without the stigma that came with it.

Rebecca Duff from the MS Society: "Unfortunately James's story is not unique.

"We did a survey last year around stigma and about half of the people we surveyed had been accused of being drunk. They'd also been challenged about parking in a disabled parking bay.

"A lot of symptoms of MS are maybe not visible. It is not always about a wheelchair."

James said he was trying to remain independent and last year went to Cuba on his own for a holiday.

"I'm living my life more now than I was three years ago," he said.