Invisible Disability - Open Your Eyes to What You Can't See


So my EDS isn't visible (unless I'm in my wheelchair) and at times this can be really tough.  I've often wished that I did 'look more' disabled.  I've wondered whether I should get a walking stick (I don't need one) so that maybe then, someone would offer me a seat at the bus stop or on the train.  So yeah, I just wanted to make a few points. 

Disabled loos - they're not just for people in wheelchairs. If I'm out & the toilets are upstairs but I'm lacking energy, I use the disabled one downstairs. But I look fine & people don't get it. So sometimes I put on a bit of a limp when I go in and out, which is ridiculous, I know. But it's easier than people possibly making accusations. So just let people go for a wee without judging them for being able to walk.

Priority seats on trains/buses exist for a reason. Obviously I get that if it's packed you're gonna want to sit down anywhere you can. But I've had to ask people to stand up for me on the train. Then mumbled out an awkward explanation as to why I need a seat. Then I get stared at by the people standing, so again, put on a limp when I get off. Another time, some idiot had a go at me for trying to find a seat when it was packed. I cried.  A lot. Not everyone can stand through a journey, so if someone wants to try to find a seat on a train, let them be.

I once had a woman have a huge go at me for walking slowly when I was in pain.  I'd just spent the last 20 minutes sat down because I was in pain and finally decided to carry on with the walk to my bus stop.  I was walking very slowly and had tears in my eyes because I was in so much pain.  Which is when a woman walking past me decided it was a good idea to hurl abuse at me.  "Why are you walking so fucking slow?! Move the fuck out of my way you fucking idiot!". I had no energy to argue back.  I sobbed.  She'd already walked past, so it's not even like I was in her way, as she got past fine.  Not that it would have excused her behaviour anyway.  Please, please - don't get angry at slow walkers.  If you're in a rush and can't get past someone, a simple "excuse me please" will do fine.

And one last point. You might see someone in a wheelchair one day, then walking the next. If you see someone in a shop stand up out of their wheelchair to get something from a shelf, that's absolutely okay!  Often when I'm out shopping in my wheelchair, I could easily stand up and get something from a high shelf.  But I don't want the funny looks and stares from ignorant people, so instead, I let myself suffer and wait for someone I can ask to help me.  And I'm gradually learning that I don't need to do this.  I don't need to take away my independence to keep other people happy.  If anything, I'm allowing people to stay ignorant.  From now on, I'll get out of my chair when I can and when I want to.  I'll show people that a wheelchair doesn't necessarily mean the person sat in it can't walk.  One step at a time (pardon the pun), I'll educate the ignorant.

So just remember, you can't always look at someone and see a disability or illness. So don't be so quick to make assumptions. Educate yourself. Be nice.

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Holly Gouldthorpe