It’s late spring and with that comes many things: warmer weather, rain showers, flowers (and with them the pollen), Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and a personal favorite of mine, the Indianapolis 500. But it also brings with it awareness — awareness of different disabilities — such as National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day; Better Speech and Hearing Month; Mental Health Awareness Month; National Headache Awareness Week; and National Arthritis Month. As I think about all of this and observed all of the various posts about it on social media, it brings to mind how many of my friends and family (myself included) deal with silent disabilities on a daily basis and how many people out there are unaware that silent disabilities exist.
There are many individuals who have silent disabilities and hearing these words uttered can be hurtful. Many people do not realize that it can be a daily struggle for some just to get out of bed, take a deep breath, put on their shoes, walk the dog, etc. It can be difficult to do the most mundane of everyday tasks that most people take for granted.
So, the next time you see someone park in an accessible parking spot or use one of the scooters at the store, please try not to judge them. You just never know — they may be dealing with a hidden disability and could probably use a kind word or a smile.
And while many struggle daily to deal with their disabilities, they often do not let it stop them from working and doing what they want to and can do. Here are some famous people with disabilities who never let their disabilities define them or stop them:
Charlie Kimball – The first and only licensed Indy Car driver with Type I Diabetes -3rd place finish in the 2015 Indianapolis 500!
Muhammad Ali – Professional boxer with Parkinson’s
Abraham Lincoln –16th President of the United States believed to have experienced depression
Mary Todd Lincoln – Former First Lady of the United States who was believed to have had schizophrenia
Woodrow Wilson – 28th President of the United States who had dyslexia
John F. Kennedy – 35th President of the United States who had asthma
Ronald Regan – 40th President of the United States and actor who had dementia
Michael J. Fox – Actor with Parkinson’s disease
Harrison Ford – Actor who has experienced depression and OCD
Bob Hope – Actor who had asthma
Rita Hayworth – Actress who had dementia
Agatha Christie – Author who experienced epilepsy
Alexander Graham Bell – Scientist credited with being the inventor of the first telephone who had dyslexia
Albert Einstein – Theoretical physicist was thought to have autism, dyslexia, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
John Nash – Mathematician who lived with schizophrenia
(And the list goes on…)
For more information on silent/hidden disabilities:
Job Accommodation Network (JAN) – A to Z of Disabilities and Accommodations (Includes workplace accommodation information for many of the disabilities mentioned)
JAN Presentation – Shedding Light on Hidden Disabilities
Anne Hirsh, M.S. and Beth Loy, Ph.D.