Visible and invisible disabilities

Visible and invisible disabilities



What I learned over the years:

Aus eigener Erfahrung ein paar Beobachtungen:

  • An invisible disability (as my impaired hearing or depression) easily can be hidden from the people around me. Sometimes this is a good thing, because nobody feels the need to comment on it or ask questions.
  • The people around me, especially those I don’t see very often, constantly need to be reminded of my invisible shortcomings. This can become annoying for both sides and requires lots of empathy from everybody.
  • A visible disability (I use a walker to help with my back pain and unsteady gait) is noticed by everyone I meet. But the response to this is not always pleasant or appropriate.
    – Helping others is great, but please ask first, and accept a “Not, thank you” without bad feelings. I get very upset when a stranger touches me without warning, or if my walker is carried away without asking for consent. I am not your good deed for the day! And doing what I can manage without help is so important to me, even if it would be so much easier with help.
    – It happened more than once that people told me their own tales of woe, or those of a relative, or of somebody they know, or whatever that comes to their mind when they spot my walker. It is not important to them, if I want to hear it or not. I am very aware of the fact that disabilities can cause concern, but I am too busy with my own problems. I can’t bear other peoples problems, too.
  • When in doubt: Not saying anything is better than using standard sayings like “Aren’t you too young for this?” And: Nothing is wrong with my intelligence, speak as normally to me as possible.

Some things may sound ungrateful, but helping others is a thin line. Making the life of another person easier, or invading his/hers personal space are two different pairs of shoes. And a “No, thank you” does not mean ingratitude. Disabled persons are very thankful for everything they still can do on their own despite their impairments. Just think about how you would like to be treated in this situation, and you will often do the right thing.


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