Invisible Disabilities


Three weeks ago to date, I threw my back out. Yes – I am a 32 year old with a 90 year old spine. I know it sounds likeĀ something someone should overcome in a matter of days, but I have been down and out of commission for at least 2 weeks. The first couple days were excruciating. The only respite I could find was getting on my hands and knees or laying flat on my back. Not cool. During my time, I couldn’t help but think about other people who have similar conditions, or even other conditions that prevent them from doing typical things everyday. I can say my respect for them doubled.

During this time, I also had the opportunity to attend a conference where I learned about effective coaching and advising. We were asked to create a workshop, and I chose: Helping students with disabilities find jobs. We decided that our focus would be to target students with visible and invisible disabilities. After discussion, we realized that with our Universities combined, the percentage of students with mental and behavioral health issues is forecast to rise substantially in the next couple of years (at least 30%). A lot of these issues are emotional and not seen. We also discussed how some employees are not aware of how to employ someone with chronic illnesses, or that may have special circumstances requiring special attention. Our 45- minute discussion did not even begin to tap into the unknown illnesses that pervade in our current society.

Invisible Disability

It was not too long ago I had a student who would miss work, or come to the office late because of an invisible disability. We worked together to identify a schedule that would help her better perform her job responsibilities, and examined current expectations of missing work, or arriving late. It proved to be a fantastic working relationship. I also recognized that I may have been a more forgiving supervisor and made sure my teammate was aware that familiar opportunities with a future employer may not exist.

I just don’t feel like we are there yet as a society.

I am so proud of people like Carly Medosch, who are trying to start the conversation about what it means to have an ‘invisible disability.’ I was truly inspired and hope this conversation continues, particularly in regards to HR policies and federal rights and regulations. Read the article on NPR.


“It is hard to pinpoint the number of Americans with an invisible disability, but it’s estimated there are millions. Their conditions may range from lupus to bipolar disorder or diabetes. The severity of each person’s condition varies, and the fear of stigma means that people often prefer not to talk about their illnesses.

But in employment disability discrimination charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission between 2005 and 2010, the most commonly cited conditions were invisible ones, according to analysis by researchers at Cornell University’sĀ Employment and Disability Institute.


I know this flies in the face of human rights, a hot topic on all accounts, but I feel very strongly that society needs to be better at working with persons with disabilities in general. In asking my employer what they thought about the staggering statistics, and what we need to do to prepare for these populations, the answer was, “We need to educate ourselves on what they are, so we will know how best to respond.”

Please understand, I get that if someone cannot perform their job responsibilities that it places a major strain on production, keeping up with goals, and efficiency. BUT, I also believe in proving periods, coaching, and direction.

  • Does it mean we need to be more emotionally intelligent in our jobs? Probably.
  • Is that a sacrifice future employers want to make? Perhaps, and hopefully!

I am just so glad this conversation is moving forward. Thank you!