By Lani Jacobs
This article is part of My Plan Manager’s guest blogger series.
Can you spot when somebody has a disability? ASD, Vision or Hearing Impairment? Fibromyalgia? Epilepsy? Diabetes? Cystic Fibrosis? Chronic Pain?
There are no ‘markers’ for some disabilities. No way to measure the effect it has on a person or their family and friends. The fact that something is not obvious, does not mean it does not exist.
Do Neurotypical people always act and react like you expect them to? Definitely not! Do NT people sometimes overreact or react from a place of exhaustion or emotion or pain? For sure! Try to imagine dealing with all those ‘normal’ internal turmoils in addition to a disability and then try to react the way other people think you should.
So often they cannot. Shopping malls are designed for NT people. The noise, the lights, the crowds, the stairs! Perhaps people with disabilities could wear glasses with beacons to let everybody know to be a little more patient. A little more compassionate. A little more aware!
But the pressure to be ‘normal’ and to conform is enormous and many people with disabilities do not want to stand out.
At least some shops now have Sensory friendly shopping hours where the lights are dimmed and there is no music. Perhaps in time hospitals, schools, festivals, restaurants and clubs will also find ways to be more ‘Disability and Sensory Friendly’.
What about those disabilities that ARE visible?
Do you see uncombed or unkempt hair, or do you see shiny, healthy hair that has perhaps not been combed, because that morning other things had to be given priority?
Do you see that the carer uses good shampoo and nice conditioner to make the hair of the person with a disability stay healthy? Do you notice that the face of this person is clean, and their nails clipped?
Do you see that their clothes are clean and whole? Do you see that they are interested in you, but also scared? Do you notice their attempts to communicate?
Do you teach your kids to be kind and not stare? Do you teach your youngsters to smile, even if the person cannot smile back? Do you teach them to be afraid and avoid or do you answer their questions, educate them, and show them how to interact?
Do you treat others like you would want to be treated if you were them and they were you?
Lani Jacobs is a late diagnosis adult with ASD and ADHD. She is a trained High School Teacher but works as a Teacher’s Aide (Learning Support Officer), where she supports kids with all sorts of disabilities and challenges. In her free time she also works as an Artist. She has a passion for people with invisible and visible disabilities and thinks a lot of the social difficulties faced by the Disabled Community are the result of the ignorance and lack of education of the broader community.