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What Happens When You’re Disabled but Nobody Can Tell

  • July 10, 2020

Invisible disabilities can be easier in some ways than physically evident ones, but they can, equally, be more difficult. They have the advantages and disadvantages of secrecy.

The Americans With Disabilities Act (A.D.A.), which marks its 30th anniversary this month, requires employers, businesses, public facilities, transportation and telecommunications to make accommodations for a disabled person whose physical or mental impairment interferes with one or more major life activities. While accommodating people with invisible disabilities is mandated by law, what specifically constitutes a disability is opaque, and what constitutes accommodation is just as vague. For many people, the A.D.A. is a broad, blunt tool that does not always serve their specific needs.

The Center for Disability Rights (C.D.R.) lists the following invisible disabilities: “learning differences, deafness, autism, prosthetics, Traumatic Brain Injury (T.B.I.), mental health disabilities, Usher syndrome, bipolar disorder, diabetes, A.D.D./A.D.H.D., fibromyalgia, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, anxiety, sleep disorder, Crohn’s disease, and many more.” Post-traumatic stress disorder, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and cystic fibrosis are other invisible disabilities. The C.D.R. cautions, “Unless it is disclosed, no one knows for sure whether someone has an invisible disability.”

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