Imagine parking your car in a disabled parking spot at your local shopping centre, having a valid permit, only to find yourself being harassed by a passer-by. It is a situation that plays out for people living with invisible disabilities.
What’s an invisible disability?
An invisible disability can be a mental, physical, or neurological condition that is not outwardly visible. We often associate disability with the things we see – a wheelchair or a guide dog. Invisible disabilities can include learning difficulties, mental health disorders, cognitive dysfunction, brain injuries, and hearing and vision impairment.
In Australia, there are over 30,000 people living with a hearing disability. Vision Australia estimates there are currently 357,000 people in Australia who are blind or have low vision. 45% of Australians aged between 16–85 years, experience a mental health condition during their lifetime, while over three million Australians live with depression or anxiety. *
What are the challenges of living with invisible disability?
For those living with invisible disabilities, the challenges can go far beyond the disability itself. Invisible disabilities can often come with societal challenges. People may be quick to judge. A person living with an invisible disability using an assigned seat on public transport may feel judged and intimidated, resulting in not using the available assigned space. These societal judgments often create their own unique challenges. Apart from the fear of being judged, there can be anxiety around comments and even confrontations that create scenes. It is this fear of contempt that often leads people living with invisible disabilities to not want to talk about it and avoid social situations. This can generate feelings of isolation and depression.
What can be done to help those living with invisible disability?
It begins with us – the community. It is about being aware and starting conversations that help to educate and inform people about the impacts that our actions can have on individuals. Everyone needs to be cognizant of the daily challenges of those living with invisible disability. Just because a person is not displaying a visible disability does not mean that a person is not living with a disability. Reframing our view of a situation can help us be more inclusive and foster acceptance. Practicing awareness and being alert to the mind’s capacity to quickly judge a situation is important. Take the time to reflect and ask yourself: what am I not seeing in this picture?
Zest Personalised Care is a registered provider of NDIS disability support services. Please get in touch if you’d like any more information about how we work with individuals to achieve their goals.