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What does a disabled person look like?

Posted Nov 21 2008 4:20pm

How do you tell if someone is disabled? We all recognise someone in a wheelchair as disabled, or many the person with sticks, or with a guide dog, but what about the many people who don’t look like the stereotype we have of a disabled person?

There are many people with invisible disabilities. These are the people who look like everyone else but struggle to manage everyday life.

When you have a disability that is not obvious people do not give you the help that you need. Everyday life can be so difficult for those who are disabled, if that disability is not obvious it becomes harder.

For example the seats on public transport that are for disabled or elderly are a wonderful idea, but if someone who looks ‘normal’ sits in them they will be worried in case an obviously disabled person gets on the bus/train. When they are shopping the queue may be only a few people, but if it hurts you to stand a queue that is two people can cause so many problems. Most shops do not have seats, you get in the queue and there is nothing to hold on to, to help you stand up. Many bus stops do not have seats and even if they do, when you look like   a normal healthy adult no one is going to give up a seat as they would for someone who is elderly. Recently I was on a underground train with my mother and daughter. We were going to a London hospital for an appointment for me. The tube train was crowded, so we had to stand. But of course someone gave up their seat for my mother. She accepted the seat, and thanked the person who offered it to her. But she saw that I was still having to stand. This caused her worry because she knew how difficult it was for me. The next stop someone got off and I managed to get to the seat, that made things easier for my mother.


We have all done it, seen someone who looks ok park their car in a disabled bay and wondered why they had.

The media this year has seemed to have a lot of stories in it about how people cheat the system and have disabled parking permits (blue badges) and get benefits. This had made those of us who need them look bad if we have invisible disabilities.

I have experienced the opposite of what he press has been publishing. I am going through my 3 rd application for DLA (Disabled Living Allowance) having been turned down twice already. The first application failed because the gp did not send in a proper medical report, making it look as if I was lying. He was happy to prescribe me strong painkillers, even though he did not believe that I was in as much pain as I said.

The second application failed so quickly that I find it hard to believe that it was even read. I suspect that I was one of the many who are refused to keep the numbers of successful applications down.

My third application is since I changed GP’s and also since I got a ——- diagnosis. I have to go for a medical in two days and am very worried that I will not be able to show them how difficult life is for me. I have not slept for two nights properly because of the worry, and have had to question how I feel. The reason is that I know I have to be succinct and totally honestly, whilst at the same time knowing that the questions are often loaded. For example I had a medical about 2-3 years ago because of a back injury, and as I was following the doctor to the examination room he dropped a sheet of paper. I managed to get it from the floor, he did not see how much it hurt or how difficult it was. The fact the fact that I picked it up meant that I failed the medical before I got in the room.

So I am now aware that they do things like tell you that the lift is broken. Many many people who really have medical problems do their hardest to stay independent, and so they will fight to do things even though they are in severe pain. Whereas someone who is cheating the system will happily lie at a medical. After all they are lying on the application so they don’t worry about telling the truth, they just give the answers that they know will get them the benefits. Don’t get me wrong I am not advocating anyone telling lies to get benefits. What I am trying to express is that it costs more to live when you are disabled. There are obvious things like you need the heating on more because you get cold when you are not so mobile, or that you end up taking the bus or using taxis or your car for journeys that an able bodied person could walk. There are other hidden costs. For example cooking is a painful thing for me to do, so I find ways to help, like buying ready prepared vegetables, or buying smaller bottles of milk because they are easier to lift.   Then there is the buying ready prepared things because you don’t have to stand for so long. These all cost more and as far as I am aware that is why the provision of DLA was made.   The main reason, as far as I can tell, that so many deserving people get turned down for benefits is because they make the mistake of thinking that the system is there to help them. I heard a story recently of a woman who when she got to her medical they told her that the lift was out of action. She managed to go up the stairs, and so was turned down. How many people would think to say ‘no I cannot manage the stairs so the doctor will have to come down here to me’?



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