So, can you always “see” a disability? No, not really. There are commonly referred to “invisible disabilities.” This means that a person may have difficulty with carrying out life functions in a typical way. However, their challenges are not noticeable to those of us who go about our daily routines, until we encounter a quality that is not like we expect.
People of all ages live happily with a variety of interests, abilities, jobs, origins, family structures, hopes and dreams, and those with disabilities are no different. Like the familiar snowflake analogy, we are all the same, yet unique. And, sometimes we just can’t see someone’s uniqueness.
Common medically diagnosed disabilities that are difficult to “see” are around us often. In the grocery store, at the ball game, in the park, at church, and school just to name a few. Without a trained or experienced perspective, it is difficult to see learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, chronic fatigue, mental health concerns, traumatic brain injuries and so on. We can see wheelchairs, hearing aids, and prosthetic limbs making it easy to lend a helping hand.
When we encounter the child having a tantrum in the store, the adult crossing through the crosswalk at the wrong time, someone who shows up for an appointment late, someone dressed inappropriately for an event, or someone who doesn’t make eye contact, nor shake hands, we are quick to wonder what’s wrong. The reality is that they may just be experiencing the characteristics of an “invisible disability.” Offering assistance or just accepting a person with a smile is the best way to open the opportunities for acceptance.
Getting to know people who are different than we are can teach us a lot about what we all have in common and why our differences should be welcomed in a community where no one’s uniqueness is “invisible.”
Stacy Hazelton, is a public relations specialist for the Highland County Board of DD.