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Three myths we’re busting about invisible disabilities

Tara Moss is a Canadian/Australian model, speaker, author and disability advocate.

In 2016, her right hip was injured which led to chronic nerve pain and mobility issues. Since then, she’s intermittently used a walking stick (that she lovingly calls ‘Wolfie’) and a wheelchair.

While she doesn’t have a ‘visible’ disability, she does have an invisible disability. And in fact, 90% of Australians living with a disability have an invisible disability.

We’ve (unfortunately) heard at Claro many stories from people living with an invisible disability being called out or not believed (e.g. when asking for a seat on public transport), as a lot of people in our community don’t understand what an invisible disability is.

This also includes Tara Moss above, who was targeted by a citizen parking vigilante for parking in a disabled spot – when she was perfectly entitled to use the spot.

So, we thought we’d tackle the topic with some myth busting.

90% of Australians have an invisible disability

Yes, you read that correctly – 9 out of 10 Australians have an invisible disability. And often you can’t tell what the disability is – it could include behavioural issues, psychosocial, developmental issues, fibromyalgia, fatigue – the list is quite long.

Sometimes, you may realise someone has an invisible disability once you get to know them better, but most of the time you will have no idea. Some people also choose to talk about their conditions openly, to help raise awareness, understanding and decrease stigma around invisible illness and disability.

And with almost 1 in 5 Australians living with a disability, chances are you already know someone with an invisible disability.

And no, Australians with an invisible disability are not ‘faking it’

No matter how well someone looks, you never know how they are feeling or what pain they may be experiencing. Try to never say ‘you don’t look sick’ or ‘do you really have a disability?” to someone, as it can be disempowering for the recipient.

If someone is met with cynicism or scepticism when they have revealed something personal about themselves, they’re likely to stop talking about it – which can make self-acceptance harder for that person, and may make them feel shame.

If you’re able-bodied, check your privilege as there can be a lot more going on than what can be seen.

Accessible toilets are available for those who need them

Wheelchair users are not the only ones who may need to use accessible toilets. For example, someone may need to use hand rails, need running water, or have digestive issues. It’s not just those with physical disabilities that need to use these facilities.

And while we’re discussing this – please make sure that if you don’t need to use an accessible toilet, you leave it free for those who do.

Remember, to check your privilege so people living with a disability – whether its visible or invisible – have access to the facilities they need to ensure community participation and maintain quality of life.

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