Non-visible disabilities, also known as invisible or hidden disabilities are all of those that are not immediately obvious to others.

The list of people who fit this category is so incredibly vast that it always astonishes me that there is only ever ONE toilet for ALL disabled people in public places and that, even when it has a sign on it, reminding everyone that not all disabilities are visible, that toilet is available more often than not.

This suggests to me that those of us with non-visible disabilities are still afraid of being judged by others. I have been shouted out ferociously by other disabled people whilst parking in a disabled parking bay, during my time as the carer for a wheelchair user (who was in the car, I might add!).

Everyone, visibly disabled, other non-visibly disabled and non-disabled people, we’re all guilty of misjudging others at times, based on a lack of information.

Anyway, focus, Emma.

Here’s some information on non-visible disabilities from the UK Government’s Disability Unit

If you feel that there are times you’d like your disability to be more visible, without you having to explain. You could consider wearing a lanyard with whatever card is appropriate for you in it.

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard, available here, and free of charge from participating retailers, is an option that is recognised quite widely around Europe, but far from universally. I really hate the colours of the lanyard itself, but I wear it because it stands out well and, while it didn’t stop my recent airport experiences being utterly horrendous, it did the talking for me sometimes, when I just couldn’t.

You can order a vast array of specific non-visible disability cards or just stick with the phrase ‘I have a hidden disability’ if you don’t feel comfortable with full self-disclosure. For the record, I also bought the vile sunflower car magnet, the key ring, and the plastic wallet, as well as the Italian ‘Ho una disibilita invisibile’ pack because, although I never use the rest of them, I do need a full collection!

Sometimes I wear my ‘I am autistic’ lanyard, that can be printed off from The National Autistic Society here. That one has been completely ineffective for me – as the writing is too small, unless you happen to standing a foot away from me and staring at my stomach, which I really hope you’re not.

I wear my lanyards selectively. I find them really helpful for attending things like hospital appointments, so that when I’m utterly lost (and I usually am) I can thrust it into the face of the nearest member of staff and that buys me some time while I gather myself enough to string one coherent sentence together!

Anyway, I hope all of that is of some help. And remember, self-disclosure is your choice to make if and when it works for you.