Read

5 Things You Should Know About Invisible Disabilities

Published:
February 15, 2024
November 11, 2019
Invisible-Disabilities|Invisible-Disabilities-Square

Imagine you pull into a small parking lot behind a wheelchair-accessible van. You wait behind the wheel of your car as the driver of the vehicle slowly finds an appropriate parking spot and proceeds with the process of unloading the disabled passenger and her wheelchair.

Due to the size of the parking lot, you are unable to either park or pass while all of this is happening. It’s inconvenient and possibly making you late, but nevertheless — assuming you are not a sociopath — you feel compassion. You know that some people simply have disabilities that merit your deference, and you are more than willing to extend the understanding the situation requires.

After all, most people sincerely want to be accommodating to anyone struggling with extra physical or mental challenges. And if we can visibly spot the disability right away, it’s generally pretty easy to do so. But the problem often is that we can’t.

The odds are high that you know at least one person who has an invisible disability that affects their quality of life, and more than likely you encounter many more in the places you live and work every day. Here are five things you should know about the people around you with invisible disabilities:

1. Invisible disabilities are not a cop-out

Invisible disabilities are real medical conditions, whether physical or mental, that restrict a person’s ability to engage in at least one basic life activity. They are not figments of the person’s imagination or a flimsy excuse to pass on something they would rather not do. Invisible disabilities are discussed with and confirmed by medical professionals, and deserve the same respect given to visible disabilities.

2. There is no single, exhaustive list to consult

The spectrum of invisible disabilities is extremely wide, encompassing conditions as varied as hearing impairment, schizophrenia, dyslexia, and chronic pain. Many of the diagnoses, such as autism and depression, have their own spectrum of severity as well. There is no “disability police” determining who’s in or out of the construct: if a disability is not obvious to an observer yet significantly restricts the person’s ability to function in daily life, it’s an invisible disability.

3. The lack of visibility sometimes makes it harder

Having a disability that does not affect one’s physical presentation (i.e. no distinct physical features or need for special equipment) may seem easier than, say, being confined to a wheelchair, but it presents a different set of problems. People with invisible disabilities don’t benefit from the immediate understanding and allowances from the general public that their visibly disabled peers receive. Sometimes unfair assumptions are made about things like their character or work ethic — often leading them to feel judged, misunderstood, and alone.

4. Jumping to conclusions is unfair and causes pain

It’s tempting to cast judgment on a stranger or acquaintance whom we observe behaving oddly, but it’s important to first stop to consider the possibility that they might be dealing with a disability we can’t see. If the person is privately trying their best to manage a lifelong challenge, the last thing they need is our worst assumptions. We would do well to remember that we don’t know the full story behind what we’re seeing, and responding with empathy in such scenarios is always a good rule of thumb.

5. Seeking to understand speaks volumes

Individuals with invisible disabilities consistently say that one of the most loving things a friend or family member can do to support them is simply to listen. Having an invisible disability can feel isolating, but relationships that seek to learn by asking questions and affirming the difficulty of the person’s experience offer great comfort. No one wants to feel overly pitied or treated too delicately, but acknowledging the disability and being willing to make allowances for it when necessary communicates a truly caring friendship.

There is a saying that goes, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” The authorship of this quote is debated, but the point remains: when it comes to your fellow humans, don’t judge a book by its cover. This is never more true than in the area of invisible disabilities. So the next time you’re tempted to judge someone by what you see, consider that the hard battle they are fighting might just be an invisible disability.

Creators:
Shannon Evans
Published:
February 15, 2024
November 11, 2019
On a related note...
How to Heal From a Heartbreak

How to Heal From a Heartbreak

Makaela Douglas

How and Why to Pursue Comedy as a Hobby

How and Why to Pursue Comedy as a Hobby

Brandy Norton

How to Hack Your To-Do List to Find More Time

How to Hack Your To-Do List to Find More Time

Molly Gettinger

My Journey Through Depression

My Journey Through Depression

Emily Bouch

"Forgotten by February"

"Forgotten by February"

Grace Poppe

Meatless Friday Recipe: Tortilla de Patatas

Meatless Friday Recipe: Tortilla de Patatas

Grotto

How To Stop Thinking Negatively

How To Stop Thinking Negatively

Julia Hogan-Werner

How Emotional Maturity Can Help You Grow

How Emotional Maturity Can Help You Grow

Hanna Van Elk

Why 'Living for the Weekend' is No Way to Live

Why 'Living for the Weekend' is No Way to Live

Patrick Schmadeke

How Studying Abroad Helped Me Reprioritize My Life

How Studying Abroad Helped Me Reprioritize My Life

Kate Fowler

Simple Self-Care Ideas to Take into the New Year

Simple Self-Care Ideas to Take into the New Year

Julia Hogan-Werner

Why Letting Go of Expectations is a Freeing Habit

Why Letting Go of Expectations is a Freeing Habit

Julia Hogan-Werner

Are You In An Abusive Relationship? Here’s How to Tell

Are You In An Abusive Relationship? Here’s How to Tell

Julia Hogan-Werner

Contemporary Dance: The Beauty of Self-Expression

Contemporary Dance: The Beauty of Self-Expression

Grotto

A View of College Football from the Sidelines: A Kicker’s Perspective

A View of College Football from the Sidelines: A Kicker’s Perspective

Aaron Martinez, Grotto

A Twist on Traditional Christmas Side Dishes

A Twist on Traditional Christmas Side Dishes

Lauren Lawson

How to Use “Cues” to Form Intentional Habits

How to Use “Cues” to Form Intentional Habits

Megan Ulrich

8 Reasons You Should Give Swing Dancing a Try

8 Reasons You Should Give Swing Dancing a Try

Megan Toal

The Quick Guide to Changing a Flat Tire [Downloadable Cheat Sheet]

The Quick Guide to Changing a Flat Tire [Downloadable Cheat Sheet]

Andrew Mentock

How to Leverage Your Unique Skills as a Volunteer

How to Leverage Your Unique Skills as a Volunteer

Molly Cruitt

newsletter

We’d love to be pals.

Sign up for our newsletter, and we’ll meet you in your inbox each week.