What Does Disability Look Like

Author: Timothy Moore - Contact: disabilitysecrets.com
Published: 2009/01/14 - Updated: 2020/12/22
Peer-Reviewed: N/A
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Synopsis: Can you always see a disability? Of course not, as many types of disabilities are hidden or invisible disabilities. Hidden disability, or invisible disability, are defined as disabilities that are not immediately apparent. The mere concept that a person with disabilities should have to pass a visibility test belies a depressing degree of ignorance...


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Hidden disability, or invisible disability, 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. A sitting disability is another category of invisible impairments; sitting problems are usually caused by chronic back pain. Those with joint problems or chronic pain may not use mobility aids on some days, or at all.

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 in a visible way. I found a remark on a blog recently and the remark basically said this (I'm paraphrasing):

"I'm tired of people who aren't disabled but try to get benefits from the government".

I guess it goes without saying that, today, we live in a fairly judgmental climate. And regarding individuals with disabilities, perhaps it has always been that way. However, for those who think like the person who made the statement above, consider the fact that many individuals with disabilities have conditions that allow them to work, but only on a limited basis, or for short durations. In other words, just because you see someone at the grocery store pushing a cart, don't assume that they're not being truthful about being disabled. For all you really know, after making a short trip to the store, they may be flat on their back when they get home, and in a considerable amount of discomfort.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

"Although 'people with disabilities' sometimes refers to a single population, this is actually a diverse group of people with a wide range of needs. Two people with the same type of disability can be affected in very different ways. Some disabilities may be hidden - or not easy to see."

How common are specific disabilities
How common are specific disabilities

Can You See Disability?

This example, of course, raises the question: Can you necessarily "see" a disability? And the answer is no, of course not. And, in fact, when it comes to most mental and physical impairments, even when the condition is truly disabling, the average watcher won't be able to determine that's the case. Contrary to myth, most disabilities are not apparent to the untrained eye, making them what is effectively known as invisible disabilities.

To use a personal example, I have an in-law with bipolar disorder. My brother-in-law has had electroconvulsive therapy on an outpatient basis for nearly two years, which is fairly significant as far as treatment goes (this was enough to qualify him for social security disability benefits). By any thoughtful consideration of his impairment he is certainly disabled. But you can't "see" his various deficits when you see him putting gas in his car, or when he is picking up milk at the grocery store. In the same manner, you can't "see" the disability of a person who has depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, or migraines.

The mere concept that a person with disabilities should have to pass a visibility test belies a depressing degree of ignorance on the part of those who are not disabled. That a person with a physical disability should have to possess a limp, or a person with a mental disability should have to carry on a conversation with himself in public before a non-disabled person can accept that a disability, in fact, exists shows just how far the disability rights movement still needs to go.


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Cite This Page (APA): Timothy Moore. (2009, January 14). What Does Disability Look Like. Disabled World. Retrieved November 28, 2023 from www.disabled-world.com/disability/types/invisible/look-like.php

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