Here in the United Kingdom, more than one in five adults are disabled, of which 80% will have a hidden, or invisible, disability. Invisible Disabilities Week is observed each October all over the world and is an important reminder that not all disabilities are obvious and that there are unique challenges faced by individuals living with hidden conditions. As the Inclusion Champion for Disability, I would like to take a moment to highlight this important week and the disabilities and challenges that may be described as either “hidden”, “invisible” or “non-visible”.

Invisible disabilities are conditions that are not immediately evident to others. They can encompass a wide range of medical and psychological conditions, including chronic pain, mental health disorders, autoimmune diseases, neurodiverse conditions and more. These conditions may not manifest in visible symptoms, making it difficult for others to comprehend the challenges individuals face, which can create unique forms of discrimination and stigma for those living with these disabilities.

Some of the more common challenges for those living with invisible disabilities include:

  • Social Stigma: Individuals with invisible disabilities often face scepticism or disbelief from others due to the lack of visible symptoms.
  • Accessibility: Many people with invisible disabilities require adjustments, accommodations and support, even though they may not appear to have a disability.
  • Mental Health: The emotional toll of living with a hidden condition can be significant, leading to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
  • Advocacy: Advocating for one's needs can be difficult, especially when others may not fully understand or acknowledge the disability.

During Invisible Disabilities Week, there are several ways we as a community can participate and show our support:

  1. Take the time to learn about invisible disabilities, their impact, and the challenges faced by those living with them. The Wellbeing Directory on the University website is an excellent place to start.
  2. Share information or your own experience of invisible disabilities on social media, start conversations, and help debunk myths and misconceptions surrounding invisible disabilities. The Invisible Disabilities Association is a useful resource, offering badges and social media frames to help you promote the week to friends and family.
  3. Practice empathy and understanding when interacting with individuals who may have invisible disabilities. Listen and offer support without judgment.

Finally, do please take some time to explore the links below and the resources that our Wellbeing team have put together to provide information about, and support for, those with invisible disabilities and conditions.