A disabled woman has criticised "ignorant" strangers who assume her boyfriend is actually her carer.
In a recent interview, Jasmine Lowdon, who has been in a relationship with her high school sweetheart Alex Hay for more than a decade, slammed offensive and prejudiced people who make snap judgements about them, revealing they sometimes even ask intrusive questions about their sex life.
Jasmine, 25, who hails from Gateshead near Newcastle in England, has been coping with numerous health problems since she was young. The trouble first began when she was 12, and began suffering mysterious seizures that were determined to be epileptic. Not long after that, Jasmine was diagnosed with ME (chronic fatigue) after she reported feeling overwhelmingly tired and lethargic.
By age 17, she'd started randomly fainting and a series of tests in hospital determined that she also had postural tachycardia syndrome - a condition where even slight changes in her environment, physical activity, or even just standing up, can raise her heart rate to dangerous levels.
Jasmine's health concerns mean she is unable to work and needs her wheelchair to cover distances further than a couple of metres.
Discussing the rudeness she routinely experiences, she stated:
"We constantly get people thinking Alex is my carer. Once, when we were out on a date together, a lady even asked what time he finished work. People will also speak over my head, directly to him, or even see the chair as an open invitation to ask questions.
"It’s fine if it’s children, as they are still learning, but adults can be very rude. We’ve literally been asked about our sex life on the bus before. I wish people would stop making assumptions and see us for what we are – a young couple, in love, just like anybody else."
"People are constantly calling Alex a hero, or telling him it’s great he can ‘see past’ my wheelchair. I know they mean well, but I find it patronising, and it erases my experiences. We both know I’m disabled – we can’t pretend otherwise – but I’m still me.
"Once, we even had someone offer to take him for a drink ‘to give him a break’ which I was really taken aback by. He is great at remaining calm, though. We always just talk about it afterwards and make sure each other are okay, as we don’t want to react at the time and cause a scene.
"That often falls in with the assumption that he is my carer. I think it all stems from society struggling to normalise relationships between able-bodied and disabled people. People will see Alex and think, ‘What’s a young lad like that doing with her?’
"When we are out on dates, though, he will purposefully squeeze my hand or do something like that, to make it clear we are a couple. Although he does help me a lot with my health issues, he is, first and foremost, my boyfriend. We’re no different to any other couple, and can still do all the same things – it’s just that we may have to adapt slightly."
The couple intend to marry sometime in the future, and Jasmine is hopeful that, no what matter what life throws at them, they can tackle it together.