Hidden Disabilities and The Constant Judgement

Stories of angry notes being left on cars in disabled bays or people being accosted for using disabled facilities are becoming so frequent you’d be forgiven for skipping past them. It seems we live in a world where it is acceptable for you to be judged on your appearance rather than, you know…. medical professional’s opinions.

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people in the UK live with disabilities that might not be immediately apparent just by looking at them. Conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis or learning disabilities like autism, don’t always exhibit symptoms that immediately “identify” you as disabled.

Now all of these conditions and others are a disability, but that doesn’t always mean you need any adjustments. However, it equally doesn’t mean you don’t require adjustments or help.

My experience

My five-year-old son has autism. He was born seven weeks early with a condition called Congenital CMV which can also lead to learning difficulties, blindness and deafness later in life. I’ll do another article on this soon.

He’s generally fit and well medically, as in he can walk fine and doesn’t, as some would say, “look disabled.” I use that term very loosely as I do not like it.

A major problem for his mother and I is that he has no awareness of danger. He will run at roads, rather than away, he thinks it’s fun. He recently got a blue badge which his mother will use. Being in a wheelchair myself, I already have to park in a Blue Badge bay if I have him.

Scotland have already introduced Blue Badges for people with learning difficulties with England and Wales following suit next year. Northern Ireland policy makers are looking into this but due to lack of a legislature it may unfortunately take longer. What this does, and will bring to others though is the inevitable judgement.

Before my son was even awarded a blue badge, he experienced prejudice. His mother would often tell me that if she took him shopping she’d get “looks and faces.” This is because in a shop my son will often have a sensory overload. The lights, spinning fans and sheer scale and amount of things just cause him to get extremely excitable and uncooperative.

He will try to run off, scream and kick. You name it he will do it and it is unlikely that this will improve over time. The looks and snide remarks that parents of children with learning difficulties get are totally unacceptable.

People are judging children and sometimes adults purely based on looks. You’ll see online comments of people criticizing parents for lack of discipline. Have they ever been in that parents situation?

Try containing a screaming and quite frankly, strong five-year-old who doesn’t understand, while trying to shop and in the case of my son’s mother also having a lively three-year-old to contend with.

Being young and disabled

I myself still get judged when I pull into a Blue Badge parking bay. I get glared at and see the onlookers muttering away in disapproval. My response? Glare back and drop my wheelchair out the car door.

Their heads soon drop and they make a prompt getaway if they can. I’m used to it but, should I be? Of course not.

People are too quick to assume than young means healthy and able bodied means not disabled. This is an outdated outlook Jacob Rees-Mogg would be proud of.

Judge, Jury & Executioner

It seems these days that people feel entitled to judge others based purely on their appearance. We’ve all seen the angry notes left on people’s cars accusing them of not being disabled. Read articles about people with hidden disabilities being discriminated. Since when was it anyone job to judge others because of how they look?

Unless these people are mind readers, or more sinisterly, stalkers, they have no idea of a person’s struggles. Who gave them the right to say anything? Oh but “free speech” I hear people say.

Harassing and victimising someone because they don’t fit your template of disabled, isn’t free speech, it’s bullying and targeted harassment based on someone’s disability. AKA against the Law.

Is it worth causing someone upset and distress just to feel like the policeman of the world? If someone uses a disabled parking space or other accessible facilities, don’t challenge them, you’ve no right.

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