What is an Invisible Disability? Understanding Hidden Disabilities
Thanks to the vital work of disability organisations and charities, disability awareness has become more widespread over recent years, but there are still many ways society can be more inclusive and aim to dismantle the stigma attached to various disabilities.
As a centre for accessible holidays in Devon, we welcome guests of all abilities and backgrounds, catering to everyone’s needs. We’ve seen first-hand how disability can affect people in different ways and how valuable an accessible place that embraces everyone can be.
Non-visible disabilities can often get lost in the conversation surrounding disability. We take a look at what is meant by this term and how you can better support people with non-visible disabilities.
What is a Hidden Disability?
An invisible disability is a physical, mental or neurological condition or impairment that is not immediately obvious to an outside perspective and may go unnoticed by others. Invisible disabilities can make performing daily activities difficult, with these challenges exacerbated by a wider population that misunderstands the nature of unseen disabilities.
Different individuals may identify with varying terms, depending on which best reflects their experience. Along with ‘invisible disability’, you may see the following terms being used:
- Non-visible disability
- Unseen disability
- Hidden disability
- Less-visible disability
- Non-apparent disability
The perceived visibility of an impairment may change over time; sometimes, an individual may feel that their disability is ‘visible’ or it may be less visible, also changing depending on who is perceiving the disability. The term ‘dynamic disability’ can be used to reflect this to some degree, as some individuals may use something like a mobility aid at certain times but not others.
It is important to remember that just because you personally cannot see that someone has a disability, it does not mean it does not exist.
What is Considered an Invisible Disability?
Non-visible disabilities can encompass a range of things – there is no one way to experience non-apparent disabilities. Examples of an invisible disability might include, but are by no means limited to:
- Chronic pain or fatigue
- Other chronic conditions like diabetes
- Mental health conditions like depression, schizophrenia, PTSD and anxiety
- Blindness or visual impairments
- Deafness or hearing impairments
- Cognitive impairments like traumatic brain injuries and learning disabilities
- Various other diverse conditions
A person may have multiple disabilities, with some being visible and some being non-visible.
Supporting People with Non-Visible Disabilities
As with any disability, the kind of support an individual with non-visible disabilities needs will vary. You should always listen to the individual rather than assuming everyone expects, requires and appreciates the same kind of support. Never make assumptions about what a person with disabilities, visible or non-visible, can or cannot do.
Some people may choose to keep their disability private, while others may wear a badge or symbol that makes others aware they have a non-visible disability. The sunflower lanyard from the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Scheme is one example of how people use an outward sign to signify their disability.
Remember, even if someone is not wearing a sign like this, it does not mean they are lying about their disability – it is not their responsibility to prove to you that they have a disability, nor is it in your purview to ask.
Ignorant reactions to invisible disabilities can further expose incorrect perceptions about disability in general, reinforcing certain stigmas and leading to misunderstandings.
Invisible Disability Awareness
Ableism can come in many forms, and those with invisible disabilities may experience varying levels of discrimination. Educating yourself, understanding what is meant by non-visible disabilities and recognising how society treats such disabilities are among the first steps towards helping reduce the barriers faced by individuals with non-visible disabilities.
Support begins with respect as the bare minimum. Respect that you may not be able to tell if someone has a disability and respect that how someone expresses their disability is their choice.
Ensuring we create an environment where everyone feels included and accepted is just one of the things we strive for. Everyone deserves a break and a chance to escape the everyday routine. Here at Calvert Exmoor, our accessible adventure activities ensure everyone, no matter their ability, can experience a holiday to remember.
If a break full of accessible climbing, zip lining, archery and more sounds like something you or a loved one would enjoy, please get in touch with the Calvert Exmoor team to book a stay with us.