Everyone who is disabled looks disabled, right? Wrong.
Have you ever wondered what makes someone "disabled?" By definition, disabled means "incapacitated by illness or injury" or "physically or mentally impaired in a way that substantially limits activity in relation to employment or education." Handicapped persons are classified as such because they are incapacitated temporarily, whereas a person is disabled if their condition is permanent.
The vast majority of people who have disabilities have disabilities that are invisible. According to the US census bureau, 96% of people who live with an illness have an invisible one, and 74% of people who live with a severe disability do so without utilizing devices like a wheelchair.
To define invisible disability in simple terms is a physical, mental or neurological condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities and are invisible to onlookers. Invisible disabilities refers to symptoms such as debilitating pain, fatigue, dizziness, cognitive dysfunctions, brain injuries, learning differences and mental health disorders, as well as hearing and vision impairments.
These are not always obvious to the onlooker, but can sometimes or always limit daily activities, range from mild challenges to severe limitations, and vary from person to person. In addition, just because a person has a disability, does not mean they are disabled. Many living with these challenges are still fully active in their work, families, sports or hobbies. Some with disabilities are able to work full or part time, but struggle to get through their day, with little or no energy for other things. Others are unable to maintain gainful or substantial employment due to their disability, have trouble with daily living activities and/or need assistance with their care.
Think about how many people you see who are clearly disabled during an average week. Statistically, for every person you’ve seen who looks disabled, you’ve seen at least four more who are disabled but do not look it.
So how can you tell if someone is disabled? Often times, you can’t, so if someone says that they are, you need to take them at their word. If someone looks fine but parks in disabled parking — and have a placard for it — you can’t accuse them of faking it. If someone looks fine but wants or needs a wheelchair, don’t question them.
Unfortunately for people who have these symptoms and conditions which are invisible, misunderstandings, false perceptions and judgments can and do occur. Everyone is unique in their own ways and we aren't here to put anyone in a box, but rather believe our job is to help think outside the box and find solutions that work for all parties. At CHOICE Employment, we advocate for our consumers and will support them in whatever capacity they need, knowing full well that each of our consumers has their own unique daily struggles.
There are quite a few people who have the idea that everyone who is disabled looks disabled, and likewise too many treat disabled people poorly. They shame them, don’t allow them to park in certain places, don’t allow them to use a wheelchair, and more. The misconception that everyone who is disabled looks disabled is one that we are trying to change, by opening discussions and raising awareness, we can create a more inclusive and understanding world.