Why do we need Invisible Disabilities Awareness Week? It’s obvious that it’s not obvious. People with invisible disabilities are not recognized as having disabilities. Accommodations are not made for them without a battle.
Not everyone who has a disability rides in a wheelchair. Many of us with invisible disabilities have trouble with walking, shopping, doing errands, or other things that everyone takes for granted. Often, those with a disability license plate or hang-tag are verbally abused if they are seen walking from their car.
Many people come back to their car to find a hateful note, saying that the person is faking a disability because they are not in a wheelchair. There are numerous illnesses that can cause a person to need to park close to a store, without needing to necessarily use a wheelchair. Invisible disabilities could be anything that creates a physical hardship: heart disease, lung disease, auto-immune disorder, fibromyalgia, or many others.
Awareness is needed terribly in this country. The Invisible Disabilities Association is working hard to make people aware and to create better care for those of us with invisible illnesses. They have created a way to get your own Disability ID card. They are also working to get driver’s licenses with a voluntary disclosure of disability.
I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Sjogren’s Syndrome, and arthritis (among others) that make it hard for me to walk very far and cause severe pain. Even though I don’t have a disabled license plate, but know that I may need to in the future. I don’t go shopping in stores because I will end up in too much pain. Or, if I do go in a store, it’s only for a few minutes.
If I were to need to shop for long, I would take my wheelchair or use one that the store provides. There are many people like me. We shouldn’t be treated unfairly just because we are ABLE to walk, but can’t walk for long stretches. If people were to understand the limits of invisible disabilities, they wouldn’t be so judgemental and rude.
One of the most frequent comments people like me hear are, “But, you look so good.” A lot of people think that it’s a compliment, but in reality, it’s a way that people dismiss your suffering. Many people think that if you’re truly sick, you will look sick. This is just not true. Many days people like me are staying home because they feel so bad.
When we venture out, we try our best to look good. We put on makeup and fix our hair. It’s not that we want people to feel sorry for us. We are hiding our illness as best we can. So, it’s very unfair for someone to then accuse us of faking it. We aren’t faking being sick. We are faking being well.
If you would like to find out more about the Invisible Disabilities Association and how they can help you, read more HERE.
@2020, copyright Lisa Ehrman