Making the invisible, visible!

On this the ‘International Day of People with Disabilities’, one of the themes for 2020 is ‘Not all disabilities are visible’.  As a visibly disabled woman myself, I write this blog in solidarity with my friends and colleagues who encounter the barriers of having an invisible disability every day.

Although not immediately apparent, invisible disabilities are broad-ranging and affect millions of people, in ways that can be debilitating when negotiating everyday life.  Invisible impairments includemental health challenges, chronic pain or fatigue, sight or hearing impairments, diabetes, brain injuries, neurodiversity and learning disabilities, among others.

 All too often the media fuels a certain misconception about disability being against the status quo, which means that people with hidden disabilities are potentially less likely to seek the help and support they need, due to the fear of stigma and discrimination. In fact, I would argue that people with invisible or visible disabilities are not in the minority and should be better represented. Here are some useful stats from Disabled World which help to put this into perspective:

“… We often regard disabled people as a ‘minority’ group, it is a significant minority of approximately 1 in 6 of the current overall UK population.

…Less than 8 per cent of disabled people use wheelchairs. The majority of impairments are not visible.”

It strikes me that one of the most universally recognised symbols to portray the vast umbrella of disability is ️ a blue box that encapsulates a 2D image of a single manual wheelchair user.  This is outdated and in no way represents the disabled community at large.  It surprises me that this is still the case in 2020!

In addition, the world has been turned upside down this year by the COVID-19 pandemic.  For everybodys safety we have had to encounter separation, isolation and significant imposition on our civil liberties, as well as grief and anxiety for some. These struggles have been felt by many and may be felt in a way that is more hidden than usual too. 

I would like us to take the opportunity today, on the International Day of People with Disabilities, to really ‘see’ those people around us with disabilities  hidden or otherwise.  Let’s recognise and welcome people as members of our society, as friends and neighbours.  Lets be kind and try not to make assumptions by taking more time to get to know people as ‘people’ and not as the ‘labels’ they may have been assigned.

Written by Katie Peacock