Not all disabilities are visible

Blog by Mike Adams

Over the last two weeks I have had four separate conversations with businesses about the ‘not all disabilities are visible’ signage which is starting to increasingly emerge on accessible toilet doors and around blue badge parking spaces. And it is starting to have a huge (positive) impact, and about time too.

We know that 80% of disabled people have hidden impairments. I now refer to myself as one of the ‘4 percent-ers’ – the relatively small proportion of disabled people who use a wheelchair. I am also part of the smaller share (17%) of disabled people who do not acquire their impairment during their adult working life. Yet these statistics still surprise people. The general assumption is that all disabilities are visible and acquired outside of working age. We need to raise awareness of these statistics and ensure everyone sees past just what is visible.

It is why Purple is proud to support Mental Health Awareness week. With our work with businesses it is mental health, and wider mental wellbeing, that is the focus of attention. Building strategies to support staff with mental health impairments is key to retention, and for business performance.

When I chaired the Access to Work Advisory Panel a number of years ago it was fluctuating conditions, and more specifically the support of individuals with fluctuating conditions, that was a real challenge. There is a clear link here with mental health.

Over the coming week an array of activity and promotion will take place to highlight the value of people with mental health conditions – and debunk some of the more unsavoury (and factually incorrect) myths.

If we want to change the conversation around disability we need to start by promoting truths: not all disabilities are visible needs to be the starting point.

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