Reactions to Hidden Disabilities

I have noticed recently that people have a strange reaction to disability. It seems people naturally don't like others getting special treatment. They are not heartless. If they see someone struggling, they will generally rush to be of service. They understand that if someone is in a wheelchair or has a walking stick, they may need extra support. My evidence then for this distaste for others getting different treatment, is the strong reaction to people using the disabled toilet or disabled parking spaces. It would be understandable if the person upset were disabled and felt that someone was taking advantage of the facility. I have never witnessed this happen, but I have seen perfectly able people become annoyed if they think that someone they perceive as clearly capable is using either a disabled space or a disabled toilet.

I know people with conditions like MS who have to carry around a walking stick otherwise someone may challenge them about the perfectly legitimate and legal rights to park in a disabled space that they have a badge for. Disabled toilets now have stickers on the door saying that some disabilities are hidden. The public should know this, but instead, this needs to be written on a door, I am assuming, due to the challenges, people have faced from the public when going into a toilet that they have every right to use. It is almost as if the aggrieved person is unconsciously saying, ”well I want to park there but I can't, and if I can't, you can't either.” It doesn't strike me they have a sudden desire to protect the rights of other disabled people, they just don't like people gaining an advantage which they don't have.

The attitude of people with disabilities seems different. Someone with a disability is trying to work around the disability. They are fighting not to be judged by what they can't do. Disabled people are sometimes embarrassed that they will be judged by their disability, and not seen as credible, or able to do the things they want to. I have seen people struggling to do things that anyone else would ask for help with. We then have a situation where one group of society is desperately trying to find a loophole to get special treatment, or something they believe they deserve, and another set of people who are desperately trying to pretend that disability doesn't stand in their way. The downside to this is when someone with a disability, who has been trying to cope, then asks for help, it is sometimes not seen as a reasonable request because so many other people are exaggerating minor difficulties that don't really hold them back. I have experienced this at work when I have had to downplay how I struggle and when I asked for help it has been ignored or deemed unimportant.

My advice then, if someone comes to you and shares their need for support, treat it with kindness, and ask what you can do to support them, rather than listing ways that you have also suffered in an attempt to reach out. Requests like these are not necessarily an ask for sympathy but a request from necessity.