Invisible Disabilities

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September 21, 2012 by badacademic2

Here’s a great first-person article about invisible disabilities, which shows the dominance of particular images of the disabled body in popular discourse.

Just what does a disabled person look like?

When most people look at me, they see a healthy-looking 23-year-old. What virtually none of them know is that for at least the last seven years of my life, I’ve had hypermobility syndrome, a disabling condition that’s unbelievably painful. It’s invisible to outsiders, but I become exhausted by walking or just standing for more than a minute or two and I’m unusually prone to sprains and dislocations. For the most part, I’ve been able to manage on my own. Unfortunately, not everyone with whom I interact is aware of — or understanding about — my disability.

In January, I was riding MUNI and sat in one of those blue seats reserved for seniors and the disabled. The bus got crowded. On another day I might have given my seat to a senior, but I had twisted my knee that morning and standing wasn’t an option. Suddenly, a woman came uncomfortably close to my face and said, “You should really give your seat to the older people on this bus.” I calmly replied, “Actually, I’m disabled so I need to be sitting down right now.” I thought that would end it — it has in the past — but she turned around and spat on me. No one defended me. No one said anything. Many people were staring.

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