On a recent trip to UK, something caught my eye! No, it wasn’t just the amazing natural beauty of the highlands and the countryside.. it was something else!! Like most developed countries that I have had the pleasure of visiting, UK also has a great system of public conveniences!! 🙂 You guessed it right.. they have an extended network of public toilets almost everywhere and anywhere you go.. One thing in particular that was interesting was this line written outside all disabled toilets “NOT EVERY DISABILITY IS VISIBLE”.
Now as a person travelling from a country where there is hardly any system in place for the disabled population, it was quite surprising to see how this one statement described the inclusivity of thought of the nation. The intention of this short statement was obviously to discourage people from judging “normal” looking people who are found using the disabled loo. Just because someone is not in a wheelchair, doesn’t mean they are not disabled. EVERY DISABILITY IS NOT VISIBLE!
So while on one hand this basically gave a free pass to anybody with a shady moral compass (or a toddler) to avoid lines at a busy “ladies” and “gentleman” sections of the loo, on the other hand it was a stark reminder of how we hardly acknowledge somebody’s disability, unless its truly visible to our eyes! I returned home with a lot of memories and souvenirs, but this one statement kept resonating in my head!! I just had to write about it! Now, I feel like I look at everyone wondering if they have a hidden disability.
A colleague at work could be suffering from depression, but keeps it hidden from us to avoid judgement! A new breastfeeding mom has to throw away the expressed milk at work, as she is not comfortable with the idea of putting the milk in the office refrigerator. An old neighbour who hides in her house all day because she can not face all the gossips about the children who abandoned her! An overworked housewife who does not take an afternoon nap to avoid taunts from the in laws! A working mom who can never attend an office party as she has to rush home after work to pick up the kid from day care, while her working husband never misses a single night out!
In health, we define disability as a “lack of ability” to perform a task that is considered normal for another person of the same age. Today, this definition means more to me. Its not just the person with physical inability, disability could be mental, emotional or social. If we could all just keep this in mind, I wonder if some day, life will be easier for so many of us out their with this invisible disability. Before you judge anyone for a task they are not able to perform, but is considered easy and normal for others, just remind yourself.. there is more to their story.. Every disability is not visible!!