We’re celebrating the achievements of people we support this week to mark International Day of People with Disabilities, which takes place on 3 December.
This year’s theme focuses on raising awareness of hidden disabilities, and calls for the removal of barriers for people with disabilities, both hidden and visible.
During an already difficult year, regulations on mask-wearing and social distancing have presented additional challenges to many people with disabilities. This International Day of People with Disabilities, we wanted to shine a light on how people we support have faced these challenges, and get their thoughts on why raising awareness of hidden disabilities is more important than ever.
Scroll down to meet Millie and Rob and read their stories…
“I live in Wadebridge in Cornwall with my parents and have been attending day services at Hft for about eight years. For me, living with a hidden disability can be a challenge at times. My brain works differently to other people’s, so it takes me a while to process things sometimes. Other people don’t see this so it can be hard meeting new people.
There are lots of different types of hidden disabilities so it’s important that people know how to deal with them. For me, my sight and my hearing are affected so I would like people to be aware without always having to explain it. I also struggle in busy situations but because I don’t look like I have a disability, people don’t understand why I get upset.
The first few months of the pandemic were quite hard as I wasn’t able to see anyone. Normally when I am in public I am with a family member who helps support me. I would like to do this on my own but things like crossing the road can be tricky when people can’t see your disability. I have a sunflower lanyard to show people that I have a disability. It helps people understand me a bit better, and means if I am not wearing a mask in the shop, people don’t question me or treat me differently.”
“I’m from Wadebridge and have been supported by Hft for about ten years. I think it’s really important to raise awareness of hidden disabilities because people don’t see them. My mental health and anxiety affect me, which you can’t see.
I moved during lockdown and not seeing my friends and family put a lot of stress on me. I have managed to keep working at a supermarket during the whole of lockdown, which helped me as it gave me the strength to carry on. I wear a lanyard to show people I have a disability that they might not be aware of. It makes people respect me at work and when I have a problem, I can ask the managers to speak and listen to me.”
Amy Gordon, Hft’s Involvement Coordinator, said:
“‘Hidden’ or ‘Invisible’ disabilities like autism or epilepsy aren’t easily visible or immediately apparent. It can be difficult to know what is going on behind the scenes for that person, and too easy to overlook the barriers that person may face. The pandemic has made those barriers ever more apparent, with disabled people up to 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 (Office for National Statistics). As Involvement Coordinator, I help champion the voices of people with learning disabilities and have heard first-hand how the people we support are being affected by the pandemic.
“Raising awareness of hidden disabilities is a vital part of fostering greater inclusion and equality for disabled people. Thank you to Rob and Millie for sharing their stories and shining a light on some of the great initiatives that have done just that.”
To find out more about involvement at Hft, visit www.hft.org.uk/our-services/empowering-individuals/involvement-at-hft/