The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons was proclaimed in 1992, by the United Nations. The Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and wellbeing of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

This year, Oldham Safeguarding Adults Board (OSAB) and Oldham Safeguarding Children Partnership (OSCP) are focusing on raising awareness of Invisible Illnesses and Disabilities and sharing the results of a recent survey designed to be a starting point to highlight and understand peoples' experiences of accessibility when they have a physical disability.

Invisible Illness and Disability

Living with an invisible illness or disability can be incredibly isolating. From mental health conditions to certain chronic and autoimmune diseases, living with an illness that others can't see can lead to judgement, stigma and widespread lack of understanding. If you see someone using a wheelchair, wearing a hearing aid, or using an assistive device, you likely are aware the person has a disability. But not all illnesses or disabilities are obvious to the eye. These are known as invisible illnesses or disabilities. Below is Catherine’s account, told from the perspective of an invisible illness (click on the image for a larger version).

An invisible illness or disability is a physical, mental, or neurological condition that can’t be seen from the outside. But it can impact someone’s movements, senses, or activities. Some examples include autism spectrum disorder, depression, diabetes, and learning and thinking differences such as ADHD and dyslexia. Invisible illnesses and disabilities can also include symptoms such as chronic pain, fatigue, and dizziness. Find out more by via the Invisible Disabilities Association.

People living with an invisible illness or disability often face barriers in their daily lives including a lack of understanding and negative attitudes. So some choose to wear the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower to discreetly identify that they may need support, help, or just a little more time in shops, transport, or public spaces. The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower is a globally recognised symbol for invisible disabilities. Find out more via the Hidden Disabilities Store.

Wheelchair Users Report - Understanding How Accessibility Works for You

Healthwatch Oldham and OSAB have worked in partnership to produce a survey that was designed to be a starting point to highlight and understand peoples' experiences of accessibility when they have a physical disability. We hope this will become part of a larger piece of work looking at peoples’ experiences of accessibility and help raise awareness with all services and in particular health and social care on the challenges faced by those who require the use of a wheelchair. From the feedback provided, we have suggested the following recommendations:

  • Better access to information
  • Improved access to wheelchair transport services
  • Easy access to restrooms/toilets
  • Better wheelchair access to venues and facilities
  • Public footpath accessibility

We would like to thank all those who took the time to complete the online survey. You can access the full report by clicking on the image below.

Take a look at the United Nations website dedicated to International Day of People with Disabilities for more information, resources, details of events and to donate.