How a Hidden Impairment is Treated in a Visual World

Hidden impairments have a major impact on millions of people’s lives, but not everyone is clued up on inclusive education. Keep reading for a closer look at how those with a hidden impairment might be treated in a visual world…

Contrary to popular belief it is not always immediately obvious to spot why someone is disabled. In fact, there are many people who live with hidden impairments, which create additional challenges for them in their day-to-day lives.

Hidden impairments can take a number of forms, ranging from conditions such as epilepsy and autism, sometimes caused by a negligent surgeon, to mild cases of cerebral palsy. There is no defined set of hidden impairments – the term simply refers to a spectrum of conditions an individual may have to contend with.

Today, we’ll be discussing the ways in which hidden impairments are currently treated in a visual world. What’s more, we’ll be providing some inclusive education to help you learn what you can to do to support someone who suffers from a hidden impairment. So, if you want to learn the ways in which you can help out those around you, read on…

We specialise in autism in mainstream schools, inclusion of students with disabilities, education psychology, autism education, community building and training on inclusion.

The Foundations of Inclusive Education: What is a Hidden Impairment?

The importance of inclusive education cannot be overstated, which is why we’ll begin with some definitions. As touched upon earlier, a hidden impairment – sometimes referred to as an invisible impairment – is probably best described as a condition which is not immediately obvious to spot. The person suffering from the hidden impairment may not show any physical symptoms, or even show any signs that they are affected in any way by their condition.

That being said, this does not mean hidden impairment should be taken any less seriously than a more recognisable physical one. Hidden impairments can still have a huge impact on an individual’s life. They could even limit their access to things that are essential in modern society, like employment, education and healthcare.

Examples of hidden impairment could include:

  • Autism
  • Diabetes
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • ADHD
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

How Can I Tell if Someone has a Hidden Impairment?

It can be very difficult to spot if someone suffers from a hidden impairment, particularly if they do not make it known that this is the case. Not everyone will want to constantly tell people about their condition, or they may simply feel uncomfortable about asking for support if they need it.

So, how can we tell if someone has a hidden impairment?

Well, in recent years, certain initiatives have been put in place to raise public awareness, such as the Alliance for Inclusive Education and Inclusive Solutions. They provide a lanyard that people can wear to make it known that they may need a little bit of extra help in public spaces, such as airports or supermarkets.

Most recently, the government announced that people with certain hidden impairment can apply for a Blue Badge, improving their ability to travel. These are small steps, sure, but they do demonstrate that progress is slowly being made when it comes to raising awareness.

That said, it may not always be the case that someone has a lanyard or badge. So, some other characteristics to recognise if someone has a hidden impairment or illness could include:

  • Someone openly talking about it;
  • If the person parks in the accessible spot (as long as they’re not being dishonest, but you can usually tell if someone is being shady in this regard);
  • Someone who waits patiently for a parking spot close to the entrance, if an accessible spot is not available;
  • Someone who cancels on you a lot;
  • Or, someone who has a cabinet or bag full of drugs.

We specialise in autism in mainstream schools, inclusion of students with disabilities, education psychology, autism education, community building and training on inclusion.

How Can You Manage Hidden Impairments in the Workplace?

The implementation of inclusive education really begins with helping people to approach those with hidden impairments. Certainly, one of the biggest tests for employers is managing the welfare of an employee who has a hidden impairment.

A Welsh survey reported that two-thirds of workers felt that there was more stigma attached to impairments that others cannot see. A worrying statistic, no matter how you look at it, and certainly something which the concept of inclusive education can help to combat.

But, by taking a proactive approach to managing hidden impairments in the workplace, you will be able to accommodate the needs of anyone in your working environment. Some brilliant characteristics of inclusive education, which could help you to approach your disabled colleagues, include:

  • Listening and acting on requests;
  • Providing extra training – perhaps from Inclusive Solutions;
  • Changing the language surrounding disability;
  • And encouraging people to be open about their condition before applying.

5 Tips for Supporting Someone with a Hidden Impairment

One of the main objectives of inclusive education is to help people to support and make accommodations for disabled people. That said, it’s not always easy to recognise what you should be doing to support someone with a hidden impairment – even if you already know them on a personal level. With that in mind, here are 5 top tips you should always keep in mind:

  1. Encourage an Open Conversation

If you know someone who has a hidden impairment, encourage them to open up a conversation that helps you to better understand what you can do to help them on daily basis. The person may find it difficult or even embarrassing to start a dialogue themselves, so give them some reassurance that you are willing to give them any support they need, no matter how small or trivial it may seem. A little bit of help can go a long way!

  1. Let Other People Know

A person with a hidden impairment shouldn’t have to tell every person they meet what their challenges might be, so why not help to take that burden off their shoulders? For example, if you have a colleague who you know has a certain condition, get their permission for you to share that knowledge with others. One of the best ways of reducing the stigma associated with hidden impairments is to improve people’s general awareness. 

  1. Allow Them Independence

Don’t smother someone! You may feel like you’re helping by offering support in every possible way you can think, but often this will have the opposite effect. If someone is able to remain independent, then don’t get in the way of this.

If you are both aware of what their limitations are, then you will be better placed to help them in the areas they struggle with. Again, this comes with communication, so keeping an open dialogue is always of continual importance.

  1. Use Professional Resources

If you’re finding it difficult to know exactly how you can support someone with a hidden impairment, then there are plenty of resources available that you can make use of. Organisations such as Scope provide independent support and advice for disabled individuals, and anyone who may be living or working with them. Their guidance could prove to be incredibly useful if you aren’t quite sure what steps you need to take. 

  1. Promote and Celebrate Awareness Days and Weeks

Raising awareness for hidden impairments isn’t always easy, so it would be a great idea to promote and celebrate days and weeks which are dedicated to the issue. Events, such as Invisible Disabilities Week in the US, could provide you with the perfect opportunity to get others talking. It could also give you the chance to raise some money for charities that support people with hidden impairments.