Not all disabilities manifest in physical symptoms that are easy to spot. In fact, millions struggle with hidden disabilities, ranging from chronic illnesses to mental health issues. The signs and symptoms of these disabilities may not be visible to everyone, yet still present distinct challenges and limitations to those afflicted. Determining what constitutes a disability is a far-reaching and complex task.
It is estimated that around 26% of people in this country live with a disability of some kind, which means that one in four Americans are afflicted. This includes hidden disabilities, which are less discernible and not always apparent. In some instances, mobility aids can improve accessibility and make life easier.
So, what constitutes a disability and what are hidden disabilities? Here is what you should know:
When talking about hidden disabilities, you are discussing a vast range of chronic conditions, illnesses, and issues that may not be apparent or visible to the naked eye. Often these disabilities are conditions that involve auditory problems, learning disabilities, or mental health issues. Some other conditions that could manifest into a hidden disability include these:
- Autism and Aspergers
- Use of prosthetics
- TBI, or traumatic brain injury
- Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Chronic Fatigue
- PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- MS, epilepsy, or cystic fibrosis
- Migraine headache sufferers
- Many more
One way to look at a hidden disability is as a condition that creates challenges or hinders you, but that is not readily seen by others. Hidden disabilities may require special accommodations, including accessibility or communication modifications. Some individuals living with a hidden disability may also benefit from the use of mobility aids, equipment, and devices, too.
Perhaps the fact that others can’t easily recognize someone’s disability can lead to additional challenges and struggles. Many may assume that the individual does not need accommodations for their disability or fail to acknowledge the disability at all. This can result in expectations and experiences that are disappointing and even discriminatory, at times.
Additionally, many may be unfamiliar with the symptoms of those living with hidden disabilities. For example, if you have sensitivity to stimuli and sensory experiences, a typical office setting with fluorescent lighting and chaos could cause distress and disturbance. Individuals with anxiety or migraine headaches may be triggered by these types of work settings. Wide open spaces or extensive commutes may be difficult for those living with mobility issues or who experience chronic fatigue. These types of disabilities may not be understood or validated in the workplace, but they are still legitimate conditions that deserve empathy and understanding when it comes to accommodations. In fact, it is the law.
Accommodations for Individuals with Hidden Disabilities
Someone with a hidden disability is entitled to accommodations under the law, such as in the workplace. Reasonable accommodations include any adjustment or modification to the work environment or actual job that allows them to perform their essential functions and enjoy any benefits of the job. So, what are some accommodations for individuals with hidden disabilities? Here are some examples:
- Flexibility regarding the job roles, duties, and tasks
- Reserved parking for staff and employees on-site
- Access and accessibility to the entrance, work area, and common spaces on the job
- Alternative means of presenting training manuals, guides, or onboarding materials
- Provision of technology or equipment to aid in the performance of job-related duties
- Change the presentation of tests and training materials
- Changes in work schedule, including remote or work-from-home options
These modifications exhibit care for the team, staff, and employees, which may result in valuable returns of increased productivity, boosted company morale, and an improved bottom line. It is a win-win situation.
If you are a hiring manager or business owner, make sure to familiarize yourself with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 to ensure you are accommodating your team to perform their jobs. This law not only prohibits discrimination against those with disabilities, but it also provides for equal treatment in terms of accommodations, access, services, transportation, communications, and overall employment for those living with a disability.
International Day of Persons with Disabilities
Since 1992, people across the globe have recognized and observed International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The purpose of this day is to promote support for the dignity, rights, and well-being of anyone with a disability and is scheduled for December 3, 2023, this year. Spreading awareness and demonstrating empathy are two excellent ways to honor and commemorate this day of observance.
If you or someone you love lives with a disability, mobility aids may help. Talk to the team at Pacific Mobility to find the best equipment and aids to help your loved one- and to improve accessibility, safety, and quality of life, too. We have been assisting individuals with quality mobility devices for generations; call or visit today.
President, Husband, Father, Grandfather Graduate of UC Davis- Bio Sci Major- Go Aggies! Jeff has extensive experience in all of Pacific Mobility’s products and services, and specializes in accessibility products as well as stairlifts, ceiling lifts and custom wheel chairs. His hobbies include spending time with family, gardening, mountain biking, exercising and off road motorcycle riding.
24 years as Owner/President of Pacific Mobility Center – selling, installing, and servicing stairlifts, porch lifts, ceiling lifts, pool lifts, handicap ramping, specialty wheelchairs, scooters, power wheel chairs, and other power mobility devices
Certified Environmental Access Consultant since 2008
Licensed General Contractor since 1998
Certified Aging in Place Specialist since 2016
Board Member for Home Access Professionals
Member of Association of Members of the Accessibility Equipment Industry (AEMA)