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  • Writer's pictureTashya De Silva

Not all Disabilities are Visible

Updated: Jan 18, 2021

In commemoration of International Day for Persons with Disabilities, this post will be dedicated to spreading awareness and greater understanding and acceptance of 'disabilities', some of which may not be immediately apparent but do hinder an individual's quality of life, such as mental illness, chronic pain or fatigue, brain injuries, neurological disorders, learning differences, cognitive dsyfunctions, sight or hearing impairments, etc.

The Current Statistics

  • More than 15% of the world's population, and more than 1 billion people are reported to have a disability.

  • 80% are from the developing world

  • An estimated 46% of person over the age of 60years are disabled

  • 1 in 5 women is likely to experience a disability in their life

  • 1 in 10 children is likely to experience a disability in their life

  • Persons with disability are 4X more likely to be treated badly and 3X more likely to be refused healthcare

  • Employment rate for persons with disability is significantly lower at 44% compared to those without disability at 75%

  • Covid19 has left people with disability significantly vulnerable

*Information sourced from WHO and IDPWD

As you can see from the above statistics, people with disabilities are disproportionately affected in areas of health, social and economic wellbeing. In line with year's theme: "Building back better: towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world by, for and with persons with disabilities" , emphasis needs to be placed on strengthening our collective effort for universal access to essential services, including immediate health and social protection, education, digital infastructure, accessible information, employment and other socio-cultural opportunities so persons with disabilities are not left behind.

Disability is part of the human experience and it is a fundamental human right to ensure inclusivity and accessible to all. This should be a priority for all, not only in terms of ensuring justice but as an investment in a common future. With the global crisis with COVID19, it is an apt time to review our current healthcare systems and enhance their effectiveness and access.

Creating a respectful, positive and caring environment for People with disabilities

  • Do not focus on the disability; a person is defined by much more than their abilities, do not make them feel otherwise

  • Empathise with the person rather than sympathise; people with disability want to be accepted not pitied.

  • Avoid assumptions: for instance, many individuals with disability have jobs and are very independent.

  • Don't be afraid to offer assistance but don't get offended if they do not want your support.

  • Don’t assume that everyone with a disability is an expert on a range of disability issues or accessibility.

  • Understand that it is not the disability that can be disabling but a lack of accessibility i.e. buildings that only have steps

  • When referring to an individual’s disability many people would suggest you emphasise the person first. The usual terms are ‘people with disability’, ‘person with physical disability’, ‘person who uses a wheelchair’ and ‘person with an intellectual disability’ or ‘person with an acquired disability’. There are also people who strongly embrace their identity as disabled – language is personal and it’s OK to ask people what they prefer.

  • Don’t use statements with a negative meaning such as invalid, incapacitated, slow, handicapped, retard or ‘confined’ to a wheelchair.

  • Avoid cliches and portraying the person as a victim. e.g. referring to people as ‘amazing’, ‘inspirational’ or ‘special’.

  • Avoid phrases such as ‘the blind’ and ‘the disabled’ — although people may have similar disabilities, they are unique individuals. Also don’t forget that people can experience the same disability very differently.

  • If writing about people with disability, use the same titles and prefixes you would with anyone else.

How else can you help?

  • Educate others: through social media, addressing prejudices you come across in your daily interactions and directing people to proper resources and support for further information

  • Volunteer: if you know a person with a disability or can volunteer at an organization, ask them what support they require and see if you can provide the same (e.g. sometimes people with disability may not be able to use public transport so you could offer them a ride, or if another person has a visual impairment, you may assist them in familiarizing themselves with a new place etc.)

  • Communication Skills: as mentioned above, you must be conscious of the words you use to communicate. Make sure you are always respectful.

A few organizations that can support

  1. Disability Organization Joint Front (0112 721 383)

  2. Association of Persons with Rheumatic Dieseases (112714420)

  3. MyRight (+94 715 306 763)

  4. Sri Lanka Federation of the Visually Handicapped (077 303 1811)

  5. Prithipura Communities (0112 930 635)

  6. Ayati - National Centre for Children with Disabilities (076 526 2537)

  7. Centre for Handicapped (0812 420 721)

  8. MJF Charitable Foundation (0114 888 323)

  9. Ceylon School for the Deaf & Blind (0112611338/011 262 5204)

  10. Senkadagala Deaf & Blind School, Kandy (0812 234 073)

  11. Cerebral Palsy Lanka Foundation (071 777 7355)

  12. National Centre for Children with Cerebral Palsy and other Developmental Disorders (071 434 2247)

  13. National Council for Mental Health (0112 685 960)

  14. EASE Foundation (77 340 9148)

  15. Department of Inclusive education (assessment of Disability) The National Institute of Education (NIE) (011-7601601)

  16. Sevana Lama Nivasa (011-2852571/011-2852572)

  17. Sucharithoyoda (011- 2852571 / 011-2850346 / 077-7614209)

  18. Sarwodaya Suwasetha (011-2655577)

Visit - for more information and other centres across Sri Lanka

Disclaimer: The following information is not a suitable replacement for therapy or professional help. Mental health is very complex and there are various individual differences due to circumstances, genetics and life experience. All information published has been generalised and done in good faith. However, we will not be liable for any actions taken as a result of this website/post. If you are facing mental health concerns, it is important you reach out to a professional. You may also contact us at for further support.

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