I recently took a 4.5 hour each-way train journey to see my daughter and granddaughter. While it was a fun and exciting trip, it also reminded me of a saying: “not all disabilities are visible” because of some of the comments and ignorant attitudes I was exposed to from (in this particular experience) the older generation.
I got on the train and went to find the seat I’d reserved. I always reserve a seat, even if I’m just going one stop. The seat I had reserved was, by chance, one of the disabled priority seats. Unfortunately, it was being occupied by two older ladies, who were engaged in a loud conversation. Not wanting to cause any disruption, I sat in one of the seats opposite, which also happened to be a disabled priority seat. I got settled and prepared my iPad and my new (awesome) headphones, and was about to press play on Netflix, when I heard one of the women say to her companion “I thought those seats are for disabled people”. I bit my tongue and let it slide, until the conductor came round to check my ticket. I then showed him my e-ticket and announced (rather louder than normal) while showing my railcard, “here’s my disabled persons railcard!” The conductor said thank you and went on his way. The ladies were suitably silenced.
This isn’t the first time I’ve come across this type of attitude. It’s the same as people saying to me. “You don’t look disabled” – which in this day and (supposedly enlightened) age is wrong and damaging.
It can be easy to make certain assumptions about someone from the outside. With autism spectrum disorder, the majority of what is going on is below the surface, much like an iceberg. A smile doesn’t always mean happiness. Illness doesn’t always appear as wheelchair-bound or missing limbs. It can present itself in a number of ways, some of which are not always visible or obvious. That doesn’t mean they are less disabling than a missing limb or blindness, for example
There are numerous people all over the world who are struggling with invisible disabilities. They may also have problems with employment, due to restrictions that may not be obvious to others in the workplace. If you can prove your seemingly invisible disability, then you you may receive help and support.
No one knows how much courage it took for a person to get out of their house that day. Or how how long it took afterwards, to recover from what most people see as a small, minor outing. Should they just become a recluse to avoid the stresses of day to day life? Of course not.
As one of these people with an invisible disability I find that I have to keep providing proof to people when I go out. Even in the workplace, at times. I fortunately have found the courage to face the outside world on a daily basis. I’m not asking for a gold star or a medal for taking part – I, like most of us, just want a level of acceptance and a lack of judgement. For people to realise that having an invisible disability doesn’t mean that the pain or struggle is any less real, just because it’s not visible.
Stay Safe X