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Invisible Disabilities: List and General Information

Updated/Revised Date: 2022-07-22

Synopsis: Information on invisible disabilities, medical conditions that are not immediately apparent, includes example list of hidden disability conditions. Invisible disabilities can include chronic illnesses such as renal failure, diabetes, and sleep disorders if those diseases significantly impair normal activities of daily living. People with invisible disabilities, such as chronic pain or some sleep disorders, are often accused of faking or imagining their disabilities.

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Definition

Invisible Disability

An invisible disability is classified as a physical, mental, or neurological condition that is not visible from the outside yet can limit or challenge a person’s movements, senses, or activities. People usually assume disabilities to be physical or visual when many disabilities are not apparent. A disability is generally defined as a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

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What are Invisible Disabilities?

Invisible Disability, or hidden disability, is an umbrella term that captures a whole spectrum of hidden disabilities or challenges, primarily neurological. Invisible disabilities, or hidden disabilities, are defined as disabilities that are not immediately apparent. Some people with visual or auditory disabilities who do not wear glasses or hearing aids, or discreet hearing aids, may not be obviously disabled. Some people who have vision loss may wear contacts.

This section also includes an additional 8 publications relating to Invisible Disability including:

A sitting disability is another category of invisible impairments; chronic back pain usually causes sitting problems. Those with joint issues or chronic pain may not use mobility aids on some days. Although the disability creates a challenge for the person who has it, the reality of the disability can be difficult for others to recognize or acknowledge. Others may not understand the cause of the difficulty if they cannot see evidence of it.

Woman with migraine sitting on a bed holding a white mug with her head resting on her hands and knees.
Woman with migraine sitting on a bed holding a white mug with her head resting on her hands and knees.

People with invisible disabilities, such as chronic pain or some sleep disorder, are often accused of faking or imagining their disabilities. These symptoms can occur due to chronic illness, chronic pain, injury, birth disorders, etc. and are not always obvious to the onlooker.

Invisible Disabilities are certain kinds of disabilities that are not immediately apparent to others. It is estimated that 10% of people in the U.S. have a medical condition that could be considered a type of invisible disability.

Nearly one in two people in the U.S. has a chronic medical condition of one kind or another. Still, most people are not considered disabled, as their medical conditions do not impair their normal activities. These people do not use an assistive device, and most look and act perfectly healthy.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), an individual with a disability is a person who: Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment.

Generally, seeing a person in a wheelchair, wearing a hearing aid, or carrying a white cane tells us a person may be disabled. But what about invisible disabilities that make daily living a bit more difficult for many people worldwide?

Invisible disabilities can include chronic illnesses such as renal failure, diabetes, and sleep disorders if those diseases significantly impair normal activities of daily living.

For example, people with visual or auditory impairments do not wear hearing aids or eyeglasses, so they may not seem impaired. Those with joint conditions or problems who suffer chronic pain may not use any mobility aids on good days.

Another example is Fibromyalgia which is now understood to be the most common cause of chronic musculoskeletal pain. Sources estimate between 3 and 26 million Americans suffer from this hidden condition.

Other Types of Invisible Disabilities

People with psychiatric disabilities comprise a large segment of the invisibly disabled population covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Invisible disabilities can also include chronic illnesses such as renal failure, diabetes, and sleep disorders if those diseases significantly impair normal activities of daily living. If a medical condition does not impair normal activities, it is not considered a disability.

96% of people with chronic medical conditions live with an invisible illness.

Many people living with a hidden physical disability or mental challenge can still be active in their hobbies, work, and be active in sports. On the other hand, some struggle to get through their day at work, and some cannot work at all.

List of SOME Invisible Disabilities

U.S. Invisible Disability Statistics

About 10% of Americans have a medical condition that could be considered an invisible disability. 96% of people with chronic medical conditions live with an invisible condition. These people do not use a cane or any assistive device and act as if they didn't have a medical condition. About 25% have some activity limitation, ranging from mild to severe; the remaining 75% are not disabled by their chronic conditions. Although the disability creates a challenge for the person who has it, the reality of the disability can be difficult for others to recognize or acknowledge. Others may not understand the cause of the problem if they cannot see evidence of it.

Invisible Disability in Society

Invisible disabilities are college students' most common type of disability. For example, students with learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or psychiatric disabilities may request accommodations even though they do not appear to have a disability. There are numerous other hidden or invisible disabilities such as heart conditions, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and Seizure Disorder.

Hundreds of conditions, illnesses, and injuries can result in a hidden disability - anemia, brain injuries and strokes, allergies, epilepsy, heart diseases, lung conditions, mental illnesses, and chronic pain are just a few examples. Yet, although we are all aware of these individual conditions, there is much to be learned about the shared needs and experiences of the hidden disability community as the unique group it is. In Canada, a movement by Laura Brydges, co-founder of the Hidden Disability Symbol Canada movement, along with the Brain Injury Society of Toronto (BIST) and Brain Injury Canada (BIC), is currently in progress.

Also a recent scheme known as the Sunflower Lanyard Program has been launched in the U.K. The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower aims to help others identify when support may be needed for those with disabilities such as autism, dementia, anxiety, or other conditions that may not be immediately obvious to others.

Many organizations, governments, and institutions are implementing policies and regulations to accommodate persons with invisible disabilities. Governments and school boards have implemented screening tests to identify students with learning disabilities and other invisible disabilities, such as vision or hearing difficulties, or problems in cognitive ability, motor skills, or social or emotional development. If a hidden disability is identified, resources can be used to place a child in a special education program that will help them progress in school.

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Subtopics and Associated Subjects

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Disabled World provides general information only. The materials presented are never meant to substitute for professional medical care by a qualified practitioner, nor should they be construed as such. Financial support is derived from advertisements or referral programs, where indicated. Any 3rd party offering or advertising does not constitute an endorsement.


Cite This Page (APA): Disabled World. (2022, July 22). Invisible Disabilities: List and General Information. Disabled World. Retrieved August 15, 2022 from www.disabled-world.com/disability/types/invisible/

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