Do you see what I see?

26 April 2021

Nadia Abdel-Hamid, Communications Officer at Life Without Barriers, shares her lived experience with invisible disability.

I have two disabilities, both of which I acquired in adulthood, but you wouldn’t know it by just looking at me. Like many others, I live with an invisible disability, one being a significant visual impairment.

I don’t present as a stereotypical person with vision impairment because to the naked eye it looks like I can see fine. Though I have no left visual field in both my eyes, meaning I see everything dead in half.

Statistically, I am less likely to experience unconscious discrimination than those with a visible disability. Though having invisible disabilities comes with its own set of issues. Before working at Life Without Barriers, it was something I felt ashamed about it so rarely told employers.

This is because as a writer, it is quite difficult to disclose my visual impairment without judgement. My job requires strong attention to detail and comes with the unsaid social expectation: writers have full vision. 

A key reason I’ve struggled to disclose to my employers my vision impairment–even though it doesn’t affect day-to-day performance, it’s too distressing when people assume it reflects on my professional skills and capability.

Since starting at Life Without Barriers, I have felt relaxed in talking about my vision impairment because it feels normal to do.

This is because my colleagues are more open-minded–they celebrate differences and see them as part of the rich tapestry of diversity we as individuals all bring to work every day.

My work and life experience has taught me there is so much more we all can do to make workplaces more accessible and inclusive for people with disability.

To increase opportunity in the workplace, employers need to ask people with disability what their specific needs are and encourage disclosure through offering disability friendly work environments.

Two simple yet powerful things employers can do now that won’t affect their bottom line are implementing ways to add value to the daily life of someone with disability at work and encourage ongoing feedback to identify areas needing adjustment so to offer fair competition at work and thus more broadly in life.

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