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Why I'm Speaking Out About Invisible Disabilities as a Visibly Disabled Person

I have a physical disability: cerebral palsy. I am also an amputee and use a wheelchair. While my disabilities are visible, there are many individuals whose disabilities you cannot see. Disabilities such as chronic pain, anxiety and PTSD are just as real as my cerebral palsy. Some people with these kinds of disabilities feel even more invisible as they may be apprehensive about discussing their conditions out of fear of being judged. This judgment can come from family or even others in the disabled community for not “looking the part.”

I can’t speak for those who have invisible disabilities, and I don’t have one that I am aware of, but I don’t want to judge or invalidate your experience with your disability. I don’t know your story, and it’s not mine to tell. It is yours to tell if and when you wish to do so. However, I will say this: I believe you, I see you and you matter.

Far too many of us disbelieve people in our communities or within our families when they say they have an invisible disability. We may believe we need some kind of proof, otherwise, they must be faking. Some even go so far as to think people create these disabilities to get out of something they may not want to do.

It is not our place to ask for proof. It is not our place to judge and it certainly isn’t our place to presume the motives behind someone’s actions.

I strongly believe we as a society and community should start to judge less and listen more. We must understand what those with invisible disabilities are trying to do — which is to be seen and heard just like the rest of us. They should not be minimized just because their disability isn’t seen by the eye. They should be a part of conversations regarding all disabilities and we should support them, whether we too are disabled or not.

Getty photo by Monkey Business Images.