HIDDEN DISABILITIES

We’ve talked about them before: hidden disabilities.  They are the disabilities that people can’t readily see, so they assume you aren’t disabled.  Things like traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, the effects of Agent Orange, diabetes, cancer, etc.  Somewhere between 65 and 80% of all disabilities are hidden.

You may say “why should someone with PTSD be treated any differently since it’s not a physical disability?”  Because she may need to sit at the edge of the room by the door just to attend her daughter’s recital.  He may need to take the chair so his back is to the wall just in order to take his wife out for dinner.  It may take longer to figure out what the tip should be because his or her brain can’t process figures as fast anymore.

The bad thing is that people judge us and think because they can’t see our disabilities, they don’t exist.  It can be very frustrating to have someone make a snide comment because you are parked in a parking space for the disabled or you use the “handicapped stall” at the local public restroom, and you don’t limp or show some outward sign of having a disability.  People with disabilities aren’t looking for “special” treatment; we’re just trying to get by like everyone esle.   It’s difficult enough getting through each day with a disability without having to convince the unbelieving that you have a legitimate need to use the bathroom with the handrails.

Let’s show a little mercy and recognize that there are many disabilities that people can have, and just because we can’t see them, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  Let’s not judge or make anyone talk about what their disability is until when and if they’re ready to make it known.  It can be difficult enough coping with the trials that face each day.  Let’s be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

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