The Statistics On Invisible Disabilities
According to a 2017 study by the Center for Talent Innovation, among white-collar, college-educated employees, 30 percent have a disability. But only 3.2 percent self-identify as having a disability to their employers. And of all employees with a disability, 62 percent have an invisible disability. In the survey, those employees responded: Unless I tell them, people do not know that I have a disability.
That means many people go through their day-to-day work lives without revealing what disability they may be experiencing or how it impacts them physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Invisible Disability In Society
Invisible disabilities are the most common type of disability among college students. For example, students with learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and/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 condition, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and Seizure Disorder.
There are hundreds of conditions, illnesses and injuries that can result in a hidden disability – anemias, 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 that 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 and Brain Injury Canada , is currently in progress.
Also a recent scheme known as the Sunflower Lanyard Program has been launched in th U.K. The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower purpose 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 other people.
Subtopics and Associated Subjects
Evolving Legal Definition Of Disability
Human rights law is constantly developing, and certain conditions, characteristics or experiences that are disputed as disabilities today may come to be commonly accepted as such due to changes in the law reflecting medical, social or ideological advancements.
Conditions that were questioned in the past have now been accepted as disabilities within the meaning of the Code. For example, when the OHRC published its 2001 Disability Policy, environmental sensitivities were just beginning to be recognized as a human rights issue. In Ontario, the HRTO has held in at least one case that environmental sensitivities can be a disability within the meaning of the Code.
Example: A woman with multiple chemical sensitivities who was living in a multi-unit apartment building was made ill by exposure to fumes given off by chemicals used in paints and varnishes at the building. As a result, she was prevented from accessing areas where the fumes were present, including her own bedroom. Presenting medical documentation from her doctor, the woman asked her housing provider to accommodate her by using less toxic materials and by granting her a temporary unit transfer, but it refused to do so. The HRTO confirmed that multiple chemical sensitivities are a disability under the Code, and found that the housing provider violated the Code by failing to provide accommodation.
Subsection 10 of the Code, supra note 7.
From the Preamble to the CRPD, supra note 6 at p. 3.
Mercier, supra note 17.
Don’t Miss: How Much Does Disability Pay In Ca
How Can We Raise Awareness
The more people talk about non-visible disabilities, the more people will understand them. So raising awareness can come from word of mouth, or through campaigning, sharing information on social media, or reaching out to charities.
Listening to disabled people and hearing their stories, wants, and needs is also a good way to learn more about how visible, and non-visible disabilities impact peoples lives, and what could be done to help improve them.
Mental Health Disabilities And Addictions
Although mental health disability is a form of non-evident disability, it raises particular issues that merit independent consideration. Section 10 of the Code expressly includes mental health disabilities. The courts have confirmed that addictions to drugs or alcohol are protected by the Code. People with mental health disabilities and addictions face a high degree of stigmatization and significant barriers. Stigmatization can foster a climate that exacerbates stress, and may trigger or worsen the persons condition. It may also mean that someone who has a problem and needs help may not seek it, for fear of being labelled.
The distinct and serious issues faced by people with mental health disabilities and addictions prompted the OHRC to hold a province-wide consultation specifically on discrimination based on mental health. In 2012, the OHRC published its findings in a consultation report entitled Minds That Matter. The OHRC relied on these findings, as well as on developments in the law, international trends and social science research to inform its Policy on preventing discrimination based on mental health disabilities and addictions , which was released in 2014.
The OHRCs Mental Health Policy provides user-friendly guidance to organizations on how to define, assess, handle and resolve human rights issues related to mental health and addiction disabilities. It also addresses:
Read Also: Is An Allergy A Disability
Documents You Must Provide When You Apply
A recent clear passport style photo It must show your full face and be easily identified.
Proof of your identity , such as
- A copy of the photograph page of a valid passport
- A copy of a valid photocard driving licence the front of the photocard showing your name, address, photograph and signature
- A copy of your birth or adoption certificate
- A copy of a marriage or divorce certificate, a civil partnership or dissolution certificate
Proof of your address you must submit one of the following, dated within the last 12 months
- A council tax bill
- A bank or building society statement
- A utility bill gas, electricity, water or phone bill
- A copy of a valid photocard driving licence the front of the photocard showing your name, address, photograph and signature
- A benefit letter showing your address
- A payslip showing your address
- A pension, HMRC or Tax Credit letter
You must supply medical evidence to prove you have the conditions that affect you. Please provide one or more of the following.
- Copies of repeat prescription forms if you are taking medication to treat your condition
- Diagnosis letters or correspondence from doctors, hospitals or other health care professionals confirming your condition
Please make sure you have all this available before you apply. You must provide your National Insurance number and have a payment card available.
When we receive your application we must have all your supporting documents and payment within 10 working days.
Its Societys Barriers That Are Disabling People
Theres definitely a movement towards flexibility, whether its because of childcare, disability or work-life balance, says Chaudoir. But he warns there is still a lot of work to be done in raising awareness, especially in competitive fields. Its societys barriers that are disabling people.
Danny Clarke is the operations director for the ELAS Group, which provides training to companies in occupational health and employment law. He says companies should try to develop a culture where staff feel safe confiding in their employer. He recommends they have a mental health and well-being policy in place so that employees know how to access support. The best piece of advice we can offer is not to suffer in silence, he says.
Isabella McGough says she doesnt want special privileges as she pursues her acting dreams, but a more widespread understanding of invisible illnesses might help.
You want to feel that bit of care, she says. Youre not a number. Youre someone who works hard, but you need to balance your life as well.
To comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Capital, please head over to our page or message us on .
If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter called “If You Only Read 6 Things This Week”. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Capital and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.
Read Also: Difference Between Ssi And Ssdi 2015
What Are Some Common Hidden Disabilities
- Psychiatric DisabilitiesExamples include major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc.
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Attention Deficit-Disrorder or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
- Learning Disabilities
- Medical conditions associated with hidden disabilities. Examples include short or long term, stable or progress, constant or unpredictable and fluctuating, controlled by medication and untreatable.
What Disabilities Are Non
Its important to remember that there is no strict line between visible and non-visible disabilities, and that sometimes people experience a combination of both – for example, a person in a wheelchair may also have a mental health condition.
The most common non-visible disabilities include: mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and obsessive compulsive disorder autism and Aspergers syndrome visual impairments or restricted vision hearing loss sensory and processing difficulties cognitive impairments including dementia, traumatic brain injury or learning disabilities and conditions such as diabetes, or chronic pain.
Don’t Miss: How Much Will I Get For Disability In California
Remember That Different People Need Disabled Spaces
The International Symbol of Access is the universal symbol found in spaces designated for disabled people. Its used all over the world and has been for over 50 years. The issue is that its not the most inclusive symbol for the majority of disabled people who dont use a wheelchair.
People with invisible disabilities have faced judging looks and even verbal abuse for using spaces theyre entitled to use because onlookers have assumed that they dont have a disability. Sometimes, someone with a hidden condition is put in the awkward position of being asked to give up their seat on public transport to accommodate someone with a visible disability or need.
Sad Rain GIF by .
Remember that not every disability is visible before asking someone youve assumed is non-disabled to give up their seat for someone else. And if your workspace doesnt already have it, suggest a sign saying not all disabilities are visible to be put up in disabled spaces as a reminder to everyone.
Colleagues May Not Believe That They Genuinely Need Help Or Simply Fail To Spot The Difficulties They Are Having
If someone uses a wheelchair, or is visually impaired, it can be easier to understand the difficulties they might face and to support them. For those with so-called invisible impairments, such as depression, chronic pain or myalgic encephalomyelitis , its often a different story. Colleagues may not spot the challenges they are experiencing, and may find it hard to comprehend or believe someone with a hidden impairment genuinely needs help.
A silent challenge
There are also internal barriers to be surmounted. A 2011 Canadian survey found that 88% of people with invisible disabilities had a negative view of disclosing their disability. People worry about being labelled, says Guy Chaudoir, a service manager for the disability charity Scope. One of the hardest things is putting pressure on yourself to achieve, and being afraid to ask for help, to say I cant do this today.
Jimmy Isaacs has direct experience of the negative impact that disclosing an invisible illness can have. He was diagnosed as HIV positive four years ago, while he was working for a sunglasses company in the UK, and says that as a consequence of sharing that information, he was pushed into accepting a cut to his hours, pay and responsibilities. Unable to pay rent on reduced wages, he quit, and says that recruiters disappeared as soon as he explained why hed spent time between jobs.
Jimmy Isaacs says it was hard to find a job once recruiters found out he was HIV-positive
Visible Vs Invisible Disability And Chronic Illness
Today, I want to address a topic that Ive seen pop up quite a bit recently and in all honesty, its made my blood boil. Its taken every ounce of my being not to join a conversation or leave a comment telling people how unhelpful and their statements are. The topic in question? Which is worse, visible vs invisible disability and/or chronic illness. If you know me, youll probably know where Im going with this neither are better or worse! They both have their different challenges, so people need to stop with the comparison already! Grr
Ive seen these type of comments from both visibly disabled and chronically ill people, as well as those whos conditions and/or impairments are invisible. To demonstrate that neither is better or worse and that they each have their challenges, I thought Id share some situations and explain the difficulties often experienced by those with visible vs invisible disability and chronic illness. I feel like Im in a fairly unique position to be able to comment on this, having gone from being invisible to visible. Well, I say invisible, but Ive worn precision tinted lenses since I was 14, but most people think theyre just sunglasses.
What Is The Sunflower
The Sunflower is a globally recognised symbol for non-visible disabilities, also known as hidden disabilities or invisible disabilities.
Not all disabilities are visible some are not immediately obvious. They include autism, chronic pain, and learning difficulties as well as mental health conditions, mobility, speech impairments, and sensory loss such as speech, sight loss, hearing loss, or deafness. They also include respiratory conditions as well as chronic conditions such as diabetes, chronic pain, and sleep disorders when these significantly impact day-to-day life. Although you may not be able to see these invisible impairments and conditions, theyre still there.
People living with these often face barriers in their daily lives including a lack of understanding and negative attitudes. So some choose to wear the Sunflower lanyard to discreetly identify that they may need support, help, or just a little more time in shops, transport, or public spaces.
What is the Sunflower lanyard?
What is an invisible disability?
Need help to social distance?
Also Check: 504 Plan Food Allergies
Us Invisible Disability Statistics
About 10% of Americans have a medical condition which could be considered an invisible disability. 96% of people with chronic medical conditions live with a condition that is invisible. These people do not use a cane or any assistive device and act as if they didn’t have a medical condition. About 25% of them have some type of 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 in a visible way.
Visible Vs Invisible Disabilities: More Than Meets The Eye
Did you know that disabilities can be invisible? What we mean by that is that someone can have a disability that does not appear disabled to the naked eye. There are disabilities that do not present themselves in a physical form. Many times, people with invisible disabilities are viewed as strange or off to others, but in fact they are dealing with a disability that makes them act the way that we do. Part of understanding the difference between the two is learning about what is considered a visible disability and what invisible disabilities there are. Read below to learn the difference between the two!
Developmental disabilities are not always visible and easy to notice, sometimes they are not apparent or obvious to the naked eye. Visible disabilities can be noticed to an individual with their naked eye and by just looking at the person. They may have facial features that show they have a disability, they may have involuntary shaking through out their body or they may not be physically able to move as the average individual does. Common examples of visible disabilities are:
Invisible disabilities have side effects that may affect the way the individual thinks, hears, speaks or interacts with others. It can be challenging to know when someone has an invisible disability, as most of these people may be dismissed by their peers and society as odd or off. These invisible disabilities may include:
- Other Chronic Illnesses
You May Like: What Does Partially Blind Mean
Why Do I Wear A Sunflower Lanyard
“When I look and think about a sunflower I see an indication of life, something positive and strong coming through out of the darkness.
“The sunflower symbol on lanyards and badges was designed to discreetly indicate that the person wearing this symbol is asking for patience, understanding and may at times need your support to get through their activity or life itself as they have a hidden disability or health condition.
“I heard about the Sunflower message a few years ago but during the pandemic it has come into its own, indicating, especially in locations where masks were compulsory, that the person wearing the sunflower needs your consideration and kindness. I have several hidden or invisible disabilities and health conditions which can make my life a struggle at times, like many other people but all we do is the best we can.
“Although I would love to wear a mask to help keep everyone safe, for me it is too difficult as one of my hidden medical conditions is that I have chronic Asthma. Anything that covers my mouth and nose, like wearing a mask, prevents me from breathing properly and can cause me to panic and feel anxious about what will happen.
“Wearing a Sunflower lanyard gives me comfort and empowers me to go places without my mask, knowing that people who know about the Sunflower symbol knows that I am not being awkward or that I do not care – but there is a reason for being the way I am.
Defining Invisible Disability Can Open Doors Of Communication And Understanding
Often people think the term, disability, only refers to people using a wheelchair or walker. On the contrary, the 1994-1995 Survey of Income and Program Participation found that 26 million Americans have a severe disability, while only 1.8 million used a wheelchair and 5.2 million used a cane, crutches or walker . In other words, 74% of Americans who live with a severe disability do not use such devices. Therefore, a disability cannot be determined solely by whether or not a person uses assistive equipment.
The term we define invisible disability 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.
Also, someone who has a visible impairment or uses an assistive device such as a wheelchair, walker or cane can have an invisible disability or invisible disabilities. For example, whether or not a person utilizes an assistive device, if they are debilitated by such symptoms as described above, they live with invisible disabilities.