In the United States, 1 in 2 people has a chronic health condition, yet 96 percent of those people aren’t visibly ill.
Disabling conditions can include mental health problems, learning difficulties, chronic illnesses, and other physical conditions. Some disabilities are clearly visible — for example, if an individual uses a wheelchair. Yet the majority of disabilities are not immediately apparent to the onlooker.
Some people with noticeable physical conditions may actually be very capable and may not consider themselves disabled. On the other hand, some people with no outward sign of illness may be dealing with extreme pain, mental health disorders, cognitive dysfunctions, or other invisible impairments. A person may be active, even very active, for a few hours or a couple of days, but on other occasions may be very unwell. Some illnesses are visible at some times but not at others. Sometimes the same individual may have visible and invisible disabilities.
It is impossible to tell what kind of challenges someone is facing based on appearances alone, and this can often lead to stigma: those who are able but have signs of physical difference can be patronized and judged as not being able, while those who look able-bodied may be disbelieved and dismissed.
We must promote better understanding of the fact that everyone with a disability has different needs and attributes, and work to destigmatize invisible disability.
Join the movement
Sign up to receive updates about news, digital actions, and events in your area