Hi Bill, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Absolutely! My name is Bill Fawcett. I am 21 years old, a Modern Foreign languages student at Warwick University and I am currently on an Erasmus+ supported year abroad at the Georg August Universität in Göttingen, Germany. I am studying Political Sciences and Hispanic Studies.
What does having Asperger’s syndrome mean to you?
To put it simply, it means quite a lot. It has its drawbacks, in that I may seem awkward and shy in some social situations, and I have some difficulty conversing with other people, and maybe I don’t understand nuance and subtleties in things like literature and film, but it has some undeniable positives. I don’t think I’d be the type of person I am without it. My mother said a few years ago that “Asperger’s is what makes you Bill, and that is what is so good about it”. I have not seen it as a defining characteristic of me but I do appreciate the positive impact it has on my life. For example, it has given me the gift of a near photographic memory, which certainly comes in handy when it comes to exam season! It also gives me a unique perspective and an individual viewpoint on world matters.
What do you want more people to be aware of?
Great question. I think there have been great strides taken in public awareness of disability, and there is far more public education about not just so-called ‘visible’ conditions but also about ‘invisible’ disabilities. One thing that I wish more people were aware of is that there is so much more that autistic/Asperger’s people are capable of. Case in point would be my friend from school, who is further down the line on the autistic spectrum, but has made a name for himself at his university for being a great actor, and due to this he has made a lot of friends. He is in some way an inspiration for me.
What are your experiences of living with an ‘invisible’ condition?
When I was younger, and my Asperger’s traits were far more pronounced than they are now, my experiences of living with it were slightly different. I used to sit on my mother’s lap as a six-year-old and ask her to pull faces corresponding to different emotions like a sad face or an angry face, and then I’d forget the next day and ask her to do it again, which must have been frustrating for her. Nowadays however, because my traits are almost non-existent, people treat me like a normal person, which is not how I was treated in primary and prep school. I began to find it far easier to make friends from the age of 13 onwards, and so I quickly came out of my shell.
How do you see the perceptions of disability in society?
Having seen how people have supported me throughout my journey so far with this condition I have, of course, a slightly different view of this than other people with disabilities, both visible and invisible. I see from the way that people at university, especially me, see you and not your walking frame or your wheelchair, means that there have been great strides made in reducing the stigma surrounding disability. I think there are still strides to be made, especially with regards to employment opportunities and accessibility for disabled people, but it is so amazing to see how differently disabled people are treated now, compared with just ten years ago. It is also inspiring to see the impact that disabled people are having in the world, the famous of whom being Steven Hawking, whose disability has proven to be no barrier to his success and his scientific research.
What do you think would improve life for disabled people today?
Fantastic question. I think there are still hurdles to clear, but we are well on our way in doing so. I think the words ‘disabled’, ‘disability’ and ‘special needs’ are sometimes perceived in a negative way, in that they are unable to perform certain tasks. I think seeing a disabled person as maybe unable to do one thing but able to shine at another is a good way to go. I have never seen my Asperger’s diagnosis as a difficulty, and that’s because I have always had friends who have never seen it that way, and also because I am a ferocious optimist.
Thank you for taking part in this interview! Any final comments you would like to add?
As a closing remark, I would like to thank you for including me in this disability awareness drive. You have always been a great friend to me at university, and I know that our friendship will only continue in the future. It has been an honour for me to be able to share my thoughts on this critical public issue. I have always thought that being involved in something is a great way to affect change, and that is why I am so hungry to be involved with politics, which I believe should be about unlocking as much potential in as many people as possible, and treating every man and woman with equal respect and dignity, regardless of their circumstances. One of the quotes that has guided my life is from Winston Churchill who said: “The pessimist is the one who sees a difficulty in every opportunity, the optimist is the one who sees an opportunity in every difficulty”. I have certainly had a difficulty in my life but I will always use it as a force for good. I am fiercely positive about the future for disabled people around the world, and anything I can do, I will.