My Life – Stay Up Late’s Jason O’Neill talks disabilities, work, festivals and fun
My life – Stay Up Late’s Jason O’Neill talks disabilities, work, festivals and fun
Campaigns Co-ordinator, Darren Johnson, talks to Jason, one of Stay Up Late’s employees in the Quality Checking Team. Jason is also an Ambassador for the charity.
Darren: Describe your disability.
Jason: I was born with scoliosis or curvature of the spine. I get quite a lot of pain through day-to-day activities like walking, sitting down for long periods or standing around for too long. I also have dyspraxia and it means I’m quite clumsy.
Darren: Does there need to be better understanding of people who have both a physical disability and a learning disability?
Jason: Yes, of course. It has affected me especially when I got stared at a lot – and still do. I know what they are staring at. That’s the worst thing. Why don’t people just come out and ask me rather than staring?
Darren: What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Jason: I got quite a lot of name-calling as a kid – Hunchback of Notre Dame and things like that because I have a lump on my back. People think I don’t hear when they’re whispering about me behind my back. But I do. I’m not deaf. I had my own way of dealing with it. I got into trouble quite a lot for speaking my mind.
Darren: What have been your biggest achievements?
Jason: Going to Glastonbury! It was amazing but very challenging getting around through 200,000 people. But I got to have fun, got to meet loads of people and got to campaign for Stay Up Late. It was a great environment to be in.
Darren: Has it opened your eyes to doing other things you might have put off trying before?
Jason: Yes definitely. I think other festivals would be cool. As long as there’s a drinking buddy involved I’m up for trying most things, though.
Darren: What about other achievements?
Jason: Getting my job at Stay Up Late last year, definitely. I was involved in Gig Buddies already but I saw the job advertised on Facebook and had help to apply. It will be one year next month since I started. I love doing this job.
Darren: Tell us more about the job.
Jason: I’m a Quality Checker. Stay Up Late partners up with Southdown Housing to do visits to people’s homes. We talk to people with learning disabilities about the type of support they receive. We do three types of visits. Firstly, it’s a pre-visit to meet the manager and get to know the place. Secondly, it’s the main quality visit where we put questions to clients and staff. Finally, it’s a feedback session where we make suggestions and try to get the managers to take action and make any improvements.
Becoming an Ambassador for Stay Up Late is another achievement. There is a group of us who help the charity with its campaigning – giving talks and so on. I’m due to give a talk in Oxford next month and looking forward to that.
Darren: You’ve been told you’re a natural comedian. Your sense of humour is clearly a big part of who you are.
Jason: To be honest I don’t have a clue where my sense of humour comes from. I got told I was a natural comedian though during a meeting last year.
Darren: Were you presenting feedback there?
Jason: Nah, I was just being a mouthy little shit.
With humour you’ve got to have the correct timing – and also be able to judge the situation and decide what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate. For instance, I wouldn’t use my normal humour in a job interview. You would never get a job!
Darren: Finally, based on your own experience have you any advice you can leave us with?
Jason: If you don’t really know about someone’s disability then ask them in person or research it online. Don’t whisper about it behind their back.