Disabilities come in different shapes and forms. Most people are very familiar with visible disabilities: a person who needs a wheelchair or a person who needs a guide dog to support them in their everyday life, but what about someone with a disability not as visible? It’s as life affecting as the visible one, but they are not talked or understood as much as disabilities you can clearly see.

So what is an invisible disability? It’s a disability that is not noticeable straight away. Those disabilities could be: injuries, mental illness, physical conditions and many more. Because you can’t spot them on an individual, the disabilities could be overlooked and misunderstood. This could lead to discrimination.


People with invisible disabilities may be embarrassed or find it difficult to talk about their disability. For example, a young woman in her 20’s who has Fibromyalgia may not be able to tell people she is not able to stand for long periods of time, due to her restless leg syndrome and tremors. The woman will fear to be judged, because some people may assume or make a comment about how could someone so young have such problems. People who aren’t aware of her needs will develop negative attitudes towards her abilities. Lack of understanding and knowledge may hurt the person and lower their confidence.

For many years now people with invisible disabilities and illnesses had been victims of discrimination. In many cases, people who don’t look sick apply for a disability parking badge. They soon get judged by the public when they park in a disabled parking space. But what do people expect, do they want to see someone crawl out of the car, use crutches or drag their leg? They don’t know anything about the individual, maybe they rarely do their shopping, because they can’t find the courage due to pain they experience or they feel too isolated to face all those people in the supermarket.

Sarah Metcalfe was left a judgmental note ‘Being fat and ugly doesn’t count as disabled’
on her car after she parked in a disabled parking space, full story Here

Because invisible disability cannot be seen by just looking at someone, it’s important to create awareness and to change people’s attitudes towards it. To start heading in to the road of knowledge, we need to start making conversations, which will lead to a better understanding of what people with invisible disabilities and illnesses have to go through. This will help people to be more open about their physical or mental conditions and will encourage people around them to become more accommodating and accepting.


Sources: Metroniams.nih