Hidden in plain sight
Two years ago I was nearly killed in a car crash.
It was through no fault of my own – a bus decided to pick a fight with my car. This left me with a spine broken in several places and severe spinal damage which will stay with me for life.
Along with the health issues that come with something like that, I became eligible to apply for a blue badge.
If you were to look at me now, you wouldn’t think that I have spinal damage or “anything wrong with me”. I had to adapt to living with a non-visible disability.
Having a non-visible disability sometimes puts you in strange and awkward situations. I was once told by my supposed best friend that “We are aren’t parking in the disabled space because that’s for real disabled people with wheelchairs.” It goes without saying that we aren’t friends anymore.
Even here in the office I’ve had some awkward conversations, including a colleague who told me that I should give my blue badge back. Why? Because “I look fine and no longer need it and should leave it for people who actually are disabled.” And “Do you not feel bad using a space when you clearly don’t need it?”
I bring these incidents up because you never know a person’s circumstance. Some days are good days and I am almost back to my old self. Other days are not so good, and I go back to using my crutches.
I remember the first day I had to use them with my new team – it came as quite a shock to some. But their reaction and understanding to the situation couldn’t have been better.
I’d also like to praise the Office for National Statistics in helping me return to a normal work life. Little things like a parking space closer to the building or adjustments to my desk make a huge difference. Also, it’s great how these changes followed me when I changed teams internally too.
I once was like many others – silently judging the person using a disabled toilet and trying to see what their issue might be. Maybe even an silent tut when I saw someone walk out of a car in a disabled bay.
But I urge everyone to remember, not all disabilities are visible, and we never know someone’s circumstances. As I found out, you never know what tomorrow brings and you may wind up in the situation you are judging.