By Simon Sansome
Invisible disabilities can be a terrible thing for people living with a disability. They can however be a great thing for humanity and a great learning curve for a people who know nothing of invisible disabilities.
I have something called Cauda Equina Syndrome, (spinal damage) if I was sitting in a restaurant or posting a selfie on Facebook you would have no idea I am disabled.
The only thing that gives it away is my wheelchair/scooter, but then you still cannot see my disability. A few months ago, I was in Costco and one of the staff members kicked my scooter and asked what I was doing in this thing, referring to my scooter. I have no issues with explaining my disability and talking about my situation, but the staff member thought I was in the scooter for fun. He was moments away from asking if he could have a go, and if I could stand for a minute or so I would have allowed him to have a go on my scooter as it is great fun.
Recently I took part in a presentation for disability awareness at a local company. It was me and four others sitting in a room next to each other in a line and employees of the company were asked to join us. They could ask questions about disability and what effect it had on our daily lives. Here’s the catch, the employees were only told that one of us five was disabled. The employees had to work out who was disabled. The rules were simple, we could answer questions honestly but were not allowed to stand up. Every employee guessed wrong. The results showed that because of my height, size and age of 35, I was the less likely to be disabled but the fact that all five of us were disabled, shocked all the employees.
Here’s the thing if you take away the mobility scooter, wheelchair, walking stick, crutches, leg braces, how can you tell if someone is disabled or not. We live in a society that looks and comments first and asks questions later. Which happens in every day life.
One example of this is my mother, she has a heart condition and, so she has difficulty going up flights of stairs. So, when we go out for meals if the toilets are on a different floor she uses the disabled toilets, which is what they are there for. However, like many others, my mother feels guilty and worried about what other people think as her disability is hidden. She frequently gets looks when coming out of the disabled toilets without the sign of a walking aid.
I myself am guilty of the same thing. When I first became disabled I was inconsiderate. On one occasion while parking in a blue badge bay with my wife, we made a comment about the person next to us saying the driver did not look very disabled, only when they got out of the car they were missing a leg. We just looked at each other and laughed, not at the person missing a leg but at our own ignorance. Because we could not see the disability.
Invisible disabilities can be an issue for many people, people with invisible disabilities should not have to pass a medical questionnaire by members of the public to park in blue bays or carry ID card to say they have an invisible disability. What is needed is a more tolerant society that accepts people for who they are not their ability. Maybe then invisible disabilities become more visible.
Here is a list of just a few invisible disabilities:
Psychiatric Disabilities—Examples include major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Attention Deficit-Disorder or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder(ADD/ADHD)
Learning Disabilities (LD)