Honest Henry Fraser believes the coronavirus pandemic has propelled his platform as a spokesperson for disabled people to new heights.
Fraser, who has been paralysed from the shoulders down since the age of 17, has built up a considerable following with his mouth paintings of famous sports stars and wildlife.
The brother of former Saracens flanker Will Fraser, the 28-year-old has over 100,000 followers on Twitter, had exhibitions for his artwork and also published two books.
Fraser has been shielding since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and has left his house just three times since March.
Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on disabled people and Fraser, who lives in Chipperfield, admits he’s felt an added responsibility to highlight those effects.
“It was a friend that sent me the stats, I think it was up to September that 59% of all people who had died of Covid were disabled. It was almost two in three people,” said Fraser, who is working with Purplebricks to encourage the nation to get behind Team GB on their journey to Tokyo.
“It was shocking to read that and devastating to see it. It was mad that it wasn’t a bigger thing. In the UK, I think one in five people have a registered disability, which is a huge number of people. But people don’t really think about it and don’t consider it, because they don’t see disabled people out in their day-to-day lives. But disabled people would love to be out and about every day.
“There are circumstances beyond our control, whether it’s illness or temperature, accessibility, all these things that stop us from doing it. It’s one of the things, because I have a platform now through the things I’ve done, it would be irresponsible of me not to use it to highlight these issues for people.”
Fraser is a beacon of positivity on social media and knows all about the importance of enjoying the little things in life.
Negative comments on Twitter are unavoidable at times, but resilient Fraser has learned to avoid rising to the bait.
Fraser thinks lockdown has helped people gain a greater understanding of the restrictions imposed on disabled people in their everyday lives.
And he hopes that trend can help blaze a trail for altering perceptions, and enhancing empathy towards those with disabilities, long into the future.
“I very rarely have negative experiences on Twitter, they are very few and far between,” he added.
“But the ones who are against it, are really against it. I try not to respond to it straightaway because it would be quite a visceral reaction and I’d probably say something I’d regret saying later on.
“But reading those comments, they are annoying and they do get traction but I think a lot of people now, especially in the first lockdown, were experiencing the life that a lot of disabled people live, of being at home and all those things. I think there was far more empathy from people.”
Fraser argues that disabled people need a greater voice in those making decisions, particularly over their own lives.
For now he is searching for practical methods to improve the lives of disabled people, working on an app called ‘Sociability’ which provides information about accessibility in public places, pubs and restaurants.
It may not be useful in the immediate future, but in the long-term it could be an invaluable tool.
Fraser, meanwhile, has his own projects, not least the construction of his own house. It is six doors down from his parents’ where he currently lives, and a step out of his comfort zone.
The Hertfordshire painter has never been one to shy away from a challenge and said: “It will be a challenge for me, I’ve lived at home for a while now and got very comfortable here.
“I need a new challenge in my life.”
Henry Fraser is working with Purplebricks to encourage the nation to get behind Team GB on their journey to Tokyo, with the same amazing home support as London 2012. Visit @PurplebricksUK on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & YouTube