Invisible Disability

DavidOne bright, sunny Sunday morning, as I unpacked my wheelchair from the car in the church parking lot, I crossed paths with my friend who has CP. CP is short for cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy is a permanent movement disorder, which involves the brain and nervous system. Signs and symptoms vary between people (from a slight limp to using a wheelchair for mobility). My friend has a slight limp but is still less mobile than I am in a wheelchair.

We made our way to the front door of our church that morning, talking and visiting along the way. As we rolled up a wheelchair ramp, a frantic parking lot attendant raced towards us shouting “hold on… HOLD ON!”

About the time I was ¾ the way up the ramp, the attendant (with only good intentions in mind) began to push my wheelchair without asking permission. I didn’t need any assistance, but my friend could have used some help opening the weighty front door.

I told the parking lot attendant that he could help by holding the door for my friend, so he let go of me to help with the door, which she had already managed to open. (*This is a true story, not a scene from Keystone Kops.)

The parking lot attendant had good intentions, but he was helping the wrong person. Why did he initially help me and not my friend? Perhaps because he could obviously see my wheelchair from a distance but couldn’t see that my friend had a disability. Although my friend walks on her own, she has more negative balance issues than I do sitting in my wheelchair.

People may have physical challenges that limit one or more of their major life activities, but these challenges may not be obvious at first glance… hence the title of this blog, Invisible Disability.

Invisible disabilities include multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, epilepsy, low vision and deafness to name a few.

Folks who have a disability are limited in one or more major life activities. That doesn’t mean they’re excluded from one or more major life activities. So how can we all deal with someone who has an invisible disability?

One good place to begin, as suggested by the Invisible Disabilities Association, is not to conclude or determine something only by what we see. We should offer to help others and remember to “learn to listen with our ears, instead of judging with our eyes.”

David Spears is a member of the Workforce SolutionsNavigator team for the Texas Gulf Coast Region. Combining training and education to real world examples, David brings personal and professional experience with disabilities to the table in order to help job seekers with disabilities realize their potential. David has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Administration with over 20 years of experience in the business world.

1 Response to “Invisible Disability”

  1. 1 bizigal July 27, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    I think it is just human nature. People want to help, but sometimes just don’t know what to do.

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