The Accessible Canada Act recognizes hidden disabilities in its definition of disability: “any impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment — or a functional limitation — whether permanent, temporary or episodic in nature, or evident or not, that, in interactions with a barrier, hinders a person’s full and equal participation in society”.
Hidden disabilities include many conditions and illnesses, and each person who is affected decides, based on how they feel and function, if they are disabled or not. Some conditions may begin as a hidden disability and over time become evident, while other conditions may have different forms — some hidden, and some evident. It is impossible to list every type of hidden disability.
Because hidden disabilities are not readily apparent to others, there is a need for awareness, self-advocacy and representation of the HDC. The HDC is marginalized and often misunderstood, due to the common but incorrect belief that, because these disabilities are not visible or audible, they are not real. This underlines the importance of developing a universal hidden disability symbol.
The Canadian government believes that to achieve lasting change, accessibility has to become part of our everyday thinking (HRSDC, 2016). By creating a national Hidden Disability Symbol, awareness surrounding this marginalized community will increase, prompting inclusion, and contributing to an overall higher quality of life.
Of note, our movement has chosen to use the word “hidden” for the following reasons:
• ‘Hidden’ is inclusive. It includes all non-evident and undetectable disabilities — such as those that are invisible and/or inaudible
• ‘Hidden’ is a short word that is easy to read and understand
• ‘Hidden’ makes an important critical statement about how society perceives and treats members of the hidden disability community.
2010: This symbol was developed by HDSC Canadian founder, Laura Brydges. The digital symbol is available free of charge from her Hidden Disability Facebook page. (facebook.com/HiddenDisability)