Disabilities, whether invisible, meaning one cannot look at a person and see that he or she is disabled or have a disability, or visible, meaning one can look at a person and see that he or she is disabled, have many similarities. Some examples of invisible disabilities are Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), Multiple Sclerosis, Crones Disease, HIV/AIDS, and mental illnesses. Accordingly, some examples of visible disabilities are Cerebral Palsy, the loss of a limb, Down Syndrome, blindness (use of a cane), and deafness (sign language).
Someone could say that no matter the disability a person has, he or she is guaranteed to have many doctor visits, potential hospitalizations, lack of moral support, judgment from others, and loss of friendships. Often, when a disability is diagnosed, he or she loses their sense of self. When one is diagnosed with a disability there are frequent doctor visits and even hospitalizations. A healthy person might only visit the doctor’s office once a year. While invisible and visible disabilities are frequently seen to be similar, the two are actually quite different when examining assistive devices, encouragement, and school.
Invisible and visible disabilities are quite different when examining assistive devices. Handicapped parking is one of the necessities that should be most readily available to those with disabilities. A person with a visible disability is not questioned when parking in a handicapped spot. He or she can look at them and see that the person needs that spot for legitimate reasons, due to their use of an assistive device, such as a wheelchair, cane, or walker.
In contrast, those with invisible disabilities frequently receive judgmental stares and people questioning why he or she is parking in a spot that is so often viewed as reserved for people with visible disabilities. Additionally, those who have visible disabilities and need to use a wheelchair are never judged and are frequently offered more assistance than those with invisible disabilities. One example of this could be when a person goes to the supermarket and sees a young man who looks healthy in a motorized wheelchair, provided by the supermarket, the person might think that he is playing around or being lazy.
For all he or she knows, he could have just left the hospital where he received a steroid treatment for his chronic SLE. Yet, when someone sees a person in a power wheelchair that he or she owns, the thought of them being lazy never crosses their mind. The same can be said for the use of a cane.
A person could examine the differences in encouragement received and moral support between people with invisible and visible disabilities. Previous to diagnoses, friends may invite the disabled person to participate in physical and social activities. After a diagnosis, those same friends may show sympathy towards the disabled person. However, unlike with invisible disabilities, once the person realizes that this disability is permanent, he or she often begin to encourage the person to redefine their purpose in life. This may happen by continuing a hobby or activity with the modifications necessary.
There may be instances where people feel that he or she cannot take on the role to help aid someone with a disability, invisible or visible. Dissimilarly, one with an invisible disability frequently appears to be and resembles the same person he or she was prior to their diagnosis. Therefore, when one gets offered an invitation and cannot attend the event due to their disability, typically, the invitee will become offended. In other words, invitations are then discontinued for the person with the disability. People often question one’s disability as though it is not legitimate.
School can be a delicate topic of discussion when examining invisible and visible disabilities. Those in school with disabilities typically receive 401 plans or an Individualized Educational Program (IEP). A 401 plan along with an IEP allow students to leave classes before or after other students, allow the student to have more excused absences, along with using technology in the classroom if necessary and much more.
These two programs can be challenging for people with invisible disabilities to receive. Nevertheless, those with visible disabilities might have these plans in place, and the teachers go above and beyond to ensure that the care of the student is met. An example of this could be, a young woman is in a chemistry lab at a local high school and suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. Though she appears to be healthy, she cannot stand for long periods of time without experiencing extreme fatigue, dizziness, and weakness in her limbs.
When she asks to take a seat while the lab is ongoing, the teacher does not allow it. He or she insists that the student must be an active participant in her lab group or she will lose points on her grade. The young woman mentions to her teacher that her IEP states that she is allowed to sit during these situations. Her teacher has not read her IEP because he or she did know the student was disabled. Yet, in the same classroom there is a male amputee. The teacher and students around him will ensure that this young man is assisted and is able to be an active participant in his lab group. No one questions his inability to complete or participate in the lab.
School can be a challenging place for people with disabilities. Those with visible disabilities may feel challenged to be independent due to the willingness of others to offer assistance. In contrast, a person with an invisible disability may need assistance but fail to request help, in fear of being viewed as lazy.
One could argue that there are no differences between visible and invisible disabilities. However, people should be informed of the many misconceptions of both visible and invisible disabilities. Learning about these misconceptions will help ensure that people with disabilities are not judged on many of their daily norms or routines.
If a person is capable of taking a second before judging the young man in the motorized wheelchair at the supermarket, or educating themselves about invisible disabilities within the classroom, there would be less judgment regarding people disabilities. Many disabled people are capable of doing the same things that healthy people can do, with just a few modifications. It only takes one person to start making a change in the way people think of others with disabilities.
In short, people must realize that the needs of those with disabilities are not similar, and everyone needs to be viewed individually.