Becoming Visible: The Importance of Disability Awareness

Invisible disabilities can take many forms.

25 years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. Since then, this law has made a positive impact on the lives of thousands of disabled citizens and workers. But if you were to stop someone on the street and ask them exactly what the ADA says and does, they probably wouldn’t know too much. And if you asked them what exactly a disability was, you may hear a different answer than the one you would give.

This is because many of the disabilities faced by everyday Americans are “invisible disabilities,” the effects of which cannot always be seen. The limiting effects of these conditions are often made worse by the fact that they cannot be observed like those requiring wheelchairs or other assisting devices, which can cause others to doubt their legitimacy. But these disabilities are just as real as any other, and awareness is key to an understanding and compassionate relationship with those who suffer. If you suffer from one of these disabilities, awareness of your rights and opportunities for help is just as important.

What are Some of these Disabilities?

It is impossible to list every invisible disability, as each are unique and impose different challenges on those who struggle with them, but some of the most common fall under these categories:

  • Traumatic Brain Injuries
  • Chronic Pain
  • Heart Conditions
  • Mental and Neurological Disorders

The Everyday Need for AwarenessA standard disabled parking space

Invisible disabilities often make simple everyday tasks like grocery shopping and driving very difficult. These are some of the most common obstacles faced by those with an invisible disability and ways for both the affected and those around them to become more aware:

  • Accessible Parking – Not Just for Those with Wheelchairs

    • Obtaining passes for disabled parking spots can be difficult for those with an invisible disability. After all, the logo we are all used to represents “disabled parking” with a wheelchair. It’s easy to assume that these spots are reserved for people who need to use devices to help them walk. But that is not always the case. If the effects of your disability can reasonably be worsened by long walks, you could be eligible for an accessible parking pass. The requirements for these passes are different from state to state, so if you have questions, you should check with your state department for motor vehicles to see if you qualify.
  • Reasonable Accommodations – Required by Law

    • Beyond accessible parking, there are many other ways in which an employer or a business can make life easier for those with disabilities. The ADA calls these “reasonable accommodations.” They can range from work breaks for people whose ability to work long hours is impaired to sign-language interpreters for the deaf. And as long as they do not place an unusual burden on the employer, they are required by law. However, in many cases, these accommodations depend on the employee asking for them. This brings up another key step for those with invisible disabilities seeking help: overcoming the fear of stigma or misunderstanding and speaking up.
  • The Desire to be “Normal”

    • In a recent interview with NPR, Carly Medosch, a young woman who suffers from Crohn’s disease and chronic pain, described her battle to be “normal:”

      “I kind of call it being able to pass,” she said. “So I can pass as a normal, healthy, average person.”

      While the desire to live life as a healthy, average person is important and commendable, it is also important to not let that desire keep you from seeking the proper help. If you are in need of accommodation, you should exercise your rights and speak out.

Moving Forward

For those fortunate enough not to suffer from a disability, visible or invisible, it is best to be compassionate and trust people who use or seek accommodation. This can help ease the fear and insecurity experienced by some dealing with difficult situations. And for those who must live with these disabilities, speaking up and seeking help will always be the quickest route to increased comfort.

If you have questions about your disability and the benefits you may be eligible for, check out additional information on our website and order a free book today!


Photos via Google (ID graphic and parking spot)