Hidden Disability 2

By: A.C.

Last year, I wrote about Hidden Disability, and the Hierarchy of Disability, which was to illustrate as best as I could, how both visibly disabled people, and society in general view hidden disability.

Recently, BBC 3 has been airing documentaries and even a Game Show as part of their “ Defying The Label” season, and links to various programmes and comment have been posted on our Facebook Page, and the range of programmes, clips and information can be found here.

The season of programmes is meant to cause people to stop and think about how the disabled live their lives in the UK, and in one programme how the disabled are viewed and treated in Ghana, as Sophie Morgan wrote about in her BBC Ouch Blog.

This season of programmes along with Channel 4’s “ The Last Leg is very welcome in raising awareness of what it means to be disabled and showing that disability can hit anyone at any age by reason of illness, accident or genetics, and that disabled people mostly do not see themselves as “special”, “ brave” or “ inspiring” and in fact are just very ordinary folk who get on with their lives in the best way that they can.

Recently I came across a Facebook Group or Community in Canada who are campaigning for International adoption of another sign which proclaims Hidden Disability. To see their suggestion, follow the link above.

In a sense if one has a Hidden Disability, then, displaying a sign does not actually raise awareness in the same way that the traditional International sign of a person in a wheelchair does.

This group along with a myriad number of groups and research by Universities into Hidden Disability or Invisible Disability as it is known in some places, has to be taken seriously by employers, society in general and indeed those who are visibly disabled. I am not sure that a sign which displays something which is either disclosed or kept hidden for personal reasons really helps. Though the Facebook Campaign raises many issues in its Community.

It might surprise some of our readers that I bring attention to a general hierarchy of disability, by visibly disabled people that one is not really disabled unless one is in a wheelchair. Anecdotal evidence and personal experience suggests that some visibly disabled people are as prejudiced or ignorant about Hidden Disability as non-disabled.

Rather like the various programmes mentioned earlier, those in wheelchairs are a wide range of people who just happen to be disabled. Compassion, experience, knowledge and understanding of other disabilities and that of Hidden Disability in particular lies with those who have years of knowledge and experience in quietly understanding what a wide range of people with all kinds of disability tell us about their situation when we help to fill out forms.

However, attitudes do vary amongst people with disabilities as it does amongst the non–disabled as regards Hidden Disability.

A study by the National Union of Journalist into Hidden Disability undertaken by the Centre for the Study into Disability by Leeds University took a survey of its members and used those responses to try and understand how Hidden Disability was perceived. The report was compiled when the NUJ members replied to four questions.

1) What do you believe are hidden disabilities?

2) Do you feel that the general public ignores the problem of hidden disabilities? If yes, do you feel that this is through fear or ignorance?

3) Do you feel that hidden disabilities are overlooked in the media and PR? If yes, how do you think that the media could do more to support issues of hidden disabilities?

4) Do you feel that the government and the disability sector (including charities) do enough to support people with hidden disabilities? If not, then what do you feel could be done to improve matters?

A concluding quote from this readable but lengthy documents states:

“It may be that the advantage of having a hidden disability is that one has at least a degree of choice in whether or not to disclose it to others and when to do so. The disadvantage being that when one does make that choice to disclose it there will tend to be more difficulty having that disability accepted as being “real”, because of the prevalence of what could be called “The doubting Thomas” syndrome applies here (If I can’t see it, it isn’t there or can’t exist at all.) The reverse tends to apply to those with a “visible” disability, in that the disadvantage is that one generally has little or no choice at all in whether or not, or even when to disclose, as the disability is self-disclosing. The advantage from this, of course, is that gaining acceptance and belief in the existence of disability tends to be far easier”

Aberdeen Action on Disability will always represent and advocate for people with disabilities whether their disability is visible or not, and its ethos ensures it adheres to strict principles of equality. We do not judge or discriminate, and treat all our clients as human beings who happen to have a disability.

Would you like to answer any of those questions posed by the NUJ? Feel free to respond in the comments section. Help to educate others what it is like to have a Hidden Disability.

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