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Living with a hidden disability

The UK Government conducted a survey wherein 19,000 people were asked about their lives. From this, they identified the number of people in the UK who reported a disability from 2019 to 2020 as 14.1 million. This means that nationally, 22% of people have a disability. A large proportion of these will be hidden disabilities. This blog explores what a hidden disability is and what we can all do to project the message that ‘just because you can’t see something, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there!’

What is a hidden disability?

A hidden disability can be a condition that is not immediately obvious by just looking at a person, or the person could have a disability that they can hide. These include learning difficulties, mental ill-health, autism, visual & hearing impairments, and problems with mobility. In other terms, the hidden disability could be anxiety, depression, diabetes, chronic pain, incontinence, asthma, cardiac issues, or something like Ehlers Danlos Syndrome that affects connective tissue and makes a person more susceptible to dislocated joints.

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In addition to their disability, some of the conditions might be ‘dynamic’, meaning that some days the condition is worse than others. A person might need a mobility aid one day but not the next. Equally, a person may need to use a priority seat on public transport one day but not the next. This dynamism raises suspicion amongst some observers, but it is simply part of the nature of their disability.

Some people prefer to call their disability non-visible rather than hidden or an invisible disability, as the latter implies the legitimacy of the disability is reduced.

A hidden disability is a difficult label to live with and therefore some people do not recognise the benefit of telling people about their disability. In order to change this belief, we need to raise awareness that despite these challenges people will not be disadvantaged or discriminated against because they reveal their disability.

What problems do people face with a non-visible disability?

Life can be more demanding for people with a hidden disability. For example, they may have difficulty explaining themselves, they may choose not to tell people about their condition or in practical terms they may need to know where the nearest disabled access point or toilet is.

The main problem people face is the attitude of others. Some people may find it difficult to acknowledge or understand something that they cannot see for themselves. Although, humans cannot see lots of things that we believe are in existence, such as germs, air, WI-FI and electricity.

What can be done to help people with a hidden disability?

Ensure that others do not judge a person’s disability just because they cannot see it.

Listening and taking time to understand a person with a hidden disability can be immensely helpful, especially in the workplace and other group settings. Asking the person what can help them as an individual will help to ensure any reasonable adjustments that are made for them are in keeping with their level of comfort about the disability.

Take time to understand a person with a hidden disability
by talking and listening, even in the workplace.

COVID-19 has highlighted the plight of people with hidden disabilities. People who were unable to wear a face-covering in public due to their disability were often mistrusted and judged. That is why the Sunflower Lanyard has proved so popular as it authenticates those with a hidden disability and not just those who cannot wear a mask. Click here to find out more about how the Sunflower Lanyard can be beneficial during the pandemic. This also allows people to be visible when they want to be.

Recently, celebrities with hidden disabilities such as Paul Sinha, from the quiz show The Chase, have raised awareness of how difficult life can be with a hidden disability. Author and TV Personality Katie Piper is blind in her left eye and both have participated in a campaign to raise awareness of hidden disabilities. Katie states in support of the diversity campaign “Being more aware, and embracing inclusion and difference internally and externally is crucial not only in broadcast, but in today’s society.

Disability Awareness Month

Disability Awareness Day is an annual event in Warrington that celebrates and promotes disability, including hidden disabilities. The free family-friendly event boasts over 200 exhibitors, a sports zone and an arts marquee.

The UK Disability History Month for 2021 is promoting its main theme as ‘Disability and Hidden Impairment.’ This aims to highlight the discrimination people with hidden disabilities have faced throughout history and into the present day.

At Fish Insurance, we are passionate about promoting equality and compassion for hidden disabilities UK citizens live with every day of their lives. Click here to find out more about hidden disabilities.

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