Here’s What It’s Like For People With ‘Invisible Disabilities’ In Their Words

Our society is pretty ableist. If you’ve never heard that term, it means when you prioritize the needs of able-bodied people over those with disabilities, either through blatant discrimination or by indirectly excluding them from participating in everyday life. If you’re an able-bodied person who has never heard the term that’s a pretty good example of ableism actually. It doesn’t affect you, so you aren’t aware of it. There are a lot of activists fighting ableism and seeking visibility for themselves and their work.

They’ve made some headway. We have things like wheelchair ramps and priority parking because of that work. But, as the Atlantic reports, ramps didn’t even become commonplace until 1990, when the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) was passed. That’s not even thirty years ago. It’s also essentially only enforced when someone litigates for change, putting the responsibility on disabled people to make everything they need happen. Things have been improving, but slowly. Right now there’s another conversation about the nuances of disability activism happening on Twitter that everyone should take a look at.

Buzzfeed News reports that a woman named Madeline Dyer, who goes by the Twitter handle @MadelineDyerUK, tweeted about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which causes “joint hypermobility, skin hyperextensibility, and tissue fragility.” It’s also what is called an “invisible disability.” You wouldn’t know Dyer has these issues by looking at her. She shared a story about how a woman at the grocery store wouldn’t believe she had a condition and pressured her to do something dangerous for her body:

Dyer’s points are so important and also often unknown: lots of people have symptoms that recede and return, there are many conditions you’ve never heard of and don’t understand, you can’t tell where someone is at health-wise just by their appearance. Others started sharing times when they’ve had their disability ignored because someone had no idea what they were talking about:

The overall lesson is to not be so judgmental in general! If someone tells you they’re sick or physically incapable of something, believe them.