Using the hashtag #InvisiblyDisabledLooksLike, Twitter users across the world with hidden disabilities have been sharing pictures and stories to challenge society’s perceptions.
Many people live with hidden disabilities – a physical, mental, sensory or neurological condition which don’t have physical signs but are painful, exhausting and isolating.
They must also deal with the frustration, misunderstandings and false perceptions arising from the unseen nature of their conditions.
A billion people around the world live with some kind of disability according to the World Health Organization, and one US survey found 74% of those with disabilities do not use a wheelchair or anything which might visually signal their disability.
— Annie Segarra (@annieelainey) 23 October 2017
The hashtag, started on Monday by Florida-based activist Annie Segarra, is part of Invisible Disabilities Week, which took place last week, to raise the awareness of hidden conditions.
So far, the term has been tweeted more than 3,000 times, peaking on Wednesday morning and used by deaf actor and model Nyle DiMarco.
The hashtag prompted many people to share their selfies and experiences.
— abby sams (@abby__sams) 24 October 2017
— The Autistech (@buckybits) 23 October 2017
— Tony Della (@fliktony) 24 October 2017
Dani Barley, from Sydney, Australia, told the BBC she “can walk around a bit,” but uses a wheelchair to help others be “comfortable with the idea of me as a younger person being disabled.
“If I tried to self identify as disabled due to mental health and chronic pain issues, people would minimise it, saying, ‘Oh, I don’t see you as disabled,’ as if it were some kind of self-slur rather than a valid identity.
“Now, as a mum and university student, people assume the only access issues I have are stairs, not course content, weather, timing of classes, etc., related to PTSD and chronic pain.
“And the reason I love these hashtags, and have started to participate in them, is they are so educational for those of us inside and outside of the disability rights community.”