Man sitting in front of laptopWhen we think of a person living with a disability, we often picture someone in a wheelchair or with an artificial arm or leg. But did you know that 90% of people living with disabilities in Australia are living with what is known as an invisible disability?  Below we breakdown the more common invisible disabilities.

Hidden Struggles: A Look at 6 Common Invisible Disabilities

  1. Chronic Pain 

Conditions like fibromyalgia, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and chronic migraines can cause persistent and debilitating pain. Those affected may appear physically healthy but are enduring constant discomfort.

  1. Mental Health Conditions 

Mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, bipolar and post-traumatic stress are invisible disabilities that significantly affect emotional and psychological well-being. They can also disrupt someone’s ability to function normally on a day-to-day basis.

  1. Autoimmune diseases

Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease are examples of autoimmune diseases. They can cause unpredictable flare-ups, fatigue and pain, making daily life challenging.

  1. Sensory Processing Conditions

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and sensory processing disorder (SPD) affect the way someone processes sensory information. This can lead to sensory overload, heightened sensitivities and difficulty with social interactions.

  1. Hearing and Vision Impairments

Some people have hearing or vision impairments that are not immediately apparent. In particular, hearing impairments can be difficult or impossible to notice. The impact of these conditions makes it essential to be aware and adapt communication methods accordingly.

  1. Neurological Conditions

Conditions like epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, dystonia and multiple sclerosis can result in a range of symptoms including seizures, tremors and impaired mobility. These conditions may not be continuously present or are well managed through medications.

“You Don’t Look Sick”: Why Words Matter When It Comes to Invisible Disabilities

Just because you cannot see it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Many people living with an invisible disability are subjected to unwarranted advice or hasty judgements, even others believing that they are ‘faking it.’  It’s all too easy to say, “But you don’t look sick,” without realising the impact of those words. Others may try and give helpful advice that is not warranted (for example, have you tried yoga or alternative herbal treatments?) without first educating yourself on the condition.

This is also an issue when it comes to accessible toilets and parking spaces – they’re there for a reason, and it’s not always an obvious one. Next time you see someone using them, although they may not look like they have a disability, keep in mind that not all disabilities are visible. If you see someone driving into a disability designated car parking space, and then walking quite normally towards their destination, remember that someone with an invisible disability may only be able to walk a certain distance because of their condition.

Role Models of Resilience: Celebrities with Invisible Disabilities

Some of the world’s favourite celebrities are campaigning and educating the world on invisible disabilities. They’re great role models for others with their condition, proving that disability does not take away from talent and ability!

Just some of these celebrities include:

  • Morgan Freeman (fibromyalgia),
  • Selena Gomez (lupus),
  • Little Wayne (epilepsy)
  • Halle Berry (diabetes)
  • Lady Gaga (fibromyalgia)
  • Venus Williams (Sjogren’s syndrome)
  • Bella Hadid (chronic Lyme disease)
  • Selma Blair (multiple sclerosis)
  • Christina Applegate (multiple sclerosis) 

Creating a Level Playing Field: The Importance of Workplace Inclusivity for Invisible Disabilities

If we are all mindful that upon meeting someone, you have absolutely no idea what their life story is or whether they are living with a condition that can cause them some pains or struggles, we can support a kinder and more inclusive world.

This is particularly important in the workplace where many of us spend a great deal of our time.

As a Disability Employment Services provider, BUSY Ability is experienced in supporting those living with disability to find meaningful and achievable employment, as well as educating employers on workplace modifications available to them and the importance of flexible and inclusive workplaces.

There is no reason why someone living with disability, including an invisible disability, cannot lead a productive, successful life both in their careers and personal lives.

It is up to all of us to educate ourselves and others to create inclusive workplaces and communities.

Find out more about Disability Employment Services for individuals looking for work and for employers looking for staff.

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