Updated: Apr 20
Invisible disabilities are classed as chronic illnesses and conditions that can significantly impair daily living. The term “invisible disability” is an umbrella term for a vast spectrum of disabilities which often go unnoticed or are not immediately apparent to most people. Some conditions considered to be an invisible disability are people with brain injuries, MS, autism, ADHD, diabetes, epilepsy, neurological disorders, hearing loss, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, mental illness… the list goes on. After knowing someone with an invisible disability, their disability might become more obvious, but often it will only be revealed if a person chooses to share.
Raising awareness of invisible disabilities and why it’s important
There are millions of Australians living with an invisible disability. So, why are we not talking about it more? It’s important to raise awareness around invisible disabilities. When a disability is not immediately apparent, this can sometimes lead to further problems regarding discrimination, exclusion, lack of understanding, difficulty accessing funding, and isolation. Sometimes a person with an invisible disability can find it difficult to talk about their disability and the daily challenges they can face. This is often linked to a fear of others responding negatively or disregarding the disability all together. Raising awareness, being mindful and opening the discussion around invisible disabilities can create a better understanding of what it means for someone to live with an invisible disability. This understanding can help to forge a stronger sense of community and support.
Five things to know about invisible disabilities
Just like when addressing someone who has visible disability, there are things to be mindful of when addressing someone with an invisible disability.
Invisible disabilities are not fake – One of the most common things someone with an invisible disability will often hear is “you don’t look like you have a disability so it can’t be that bad”. While a person may not look like they have a disability (it is called an invisible disability after all), that doesn’t mean it’s not there. When people with an invisible disability are met with scepticism, this can lead them to downplay their experience or not talk about it.
Accessible facilities are not just for visible disabilities – If someone appears able-bodied and is using an accessible bathroom or an accessible parking space, it could be that they have an invisible disability. They might need access to a sink in a bathroom stall because they have a colostomy bag (where bowel movements are collected in a disposable bag), inflammatory bowel disease, or difficulty balancing and need hand rails for support; or maybe they have chronic pain or mobility issues and need a parking space within proximity to their intended destination. It’s important to respect the privacy of those using accessible facilities.
Words and actions speak volumes – Language is the way we communicate, whether that’s verbal or non-verbal, and so, it’s important to think about how you interact with people. The use of language around sensitive situations, interrupting someone who takes more time to communicate, or disregarding a person and their disability can be just as affecting for someone living with an invisible disability, as it can be for someone with a visible disability.
Does the NDIS support invisible disability?
One of the biggest challenges for a person with an invisible disability can be securing funding to help them with the management of their day-to-day living. Having an invisible disability won’t make someone ineligible for the NDIS, but sometimes it can be difficult for them to obtain funding. For anyone with a disability, invisible or visible, they need to meet the same access requirements for funding as laid out by the NDIS.
NDIS access requirements:
Aged between 7 and 65 (there are other assistance options for those under 7 and over 65 years);
live in Australia and have either Australian citizenship, permanent residency status, or have a Special Category Visa;
need support or special equipment because of a permanent or significant disability and;
require direct supports that overtime can help you to live as independently as possible.
The NDIS has been put in place to help people with a disability live as independently as possible. And while more than 325,000 Australians are receiving support, there are some who are not eligible for support based on NDIS access requirements. This doesn’t mean there is no support available. People with a disability who don’t qualify for the NDIS can still have access to and apply for:
Local Area Coordinators who can help provide guidance, information and support;
the ability to apply for other government support and funding and;
disability advocacy support.
How First2Care can help
Although First2Care’s NDIS Plan Management platform was designed to assist NDIS Participants with a seamless NDIS process, from the initial application to personal goal and financial management, the platform solution is also suitable for non-NDIS Participants. The First2Care platform can guide you through the pre-planning process (if you are looking to apply or renew your existing plan), it helps define your goals and manage your record keeping of financial and other documentation relating to your disability.
Read more about the benefits of working with an independent professional Plan Manager like First2Care. Alternatively, register today on First2Care’s FREE NDIS Plan Management platform, so we can start helping you best manage your plan.
Read more about First2Care’s Plan Management features.
Over to you
We hope this helps with understanding invisible disabilities, why awareness is so important, and what kind of support options are available whether you are eligible or ineligible for the NDIS. If you have an invisible disability and have recently applied for the NDIS, we would love to hear about your experience so we can determine if we can be of assistance.