Posted on 30/11/2017

"Invisible disabilities” with Youtube disability campaigner, Katy Gough

"Invisible disabilities” with Youtube disability campaigner, Katy Gough

What are “invisible disabilities” and how are those living with them affected? In support of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we contacted Youtuber Katy Gough, who lives with 2 “invisible” conditions to ask her views on what “disability” means in our society.

It can be easy to spot someone who has a physical impairment, but what about those living with a condition you can’t immediately see? Are these “invisible disabilities” viewed differently by society and are they even acknowledged? We’ve created a Christmas Gift Guide with affordable, yet useful products to help those with “invisible disabilities” so you can give your friends and loved ones the gift of independence this festive season.

Opening the debate on “invisible disabilities”

Katy Gough has been making Youtube videos for a number of years, focussing on her experiences of living with Fibromyalgia and Asperger’s Syndrome – two conditions which come under the umbrella of “invisible disabilities”. In view of this, we sent Katy a number of questions and asked whether she would answer them on camera to raise awareness of what it means to live with a condition that is not immediately apparent at first glance.

“Double standards” towards physical and mental conditions

In her video Katy admits, “I feel like I’m the perfect example of how there are double standards within the world of disability. I live with 2 invisible conditions – Asperger’s Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. You would expect them both to get the same reaction as they are both “invisible”, but because one affects my brain and the other affects my body they get completely different reactions – even though they are both “invisible disabilities”.”

Katy goes on to explain that the initial reaction of many people who discover she is on the autism spectrum is to question her diagnosis, with comments such as “You don’t have that – you look normal”, “I know someone who’s autistic and you’re nothing like them” or “Are you sure…maybe you were misdiagnosed?”.

“People want to nitpick, they want to know all my background as to what makes me autistic and why I got that diagnosis. It’s almost like an interrogation! I feel like bright lights are shining on me and I’ve got a timer going to answer all these questions – I feel like I’ve got to prove myself.”

When it comes to her fibromyalgia however, people tend to be much more understanding, with immediate reactions such as “Oh, you poor thing, how can I help you?”, “I know someone with fibromyalgia, it’s awful isn’t it?” or “Is there anything I can do for you?”

“I still have an automatic response to my fibromyalgia but it’s more acceptance as opposed to the questioning I get with my autism. Even though they are both “invisible disabilities”, one of the times I’m accused of lying or accused of being wrong and then the other times it’s just automatically accepted.”

Why it’s important to raise awareness of “invisible disabilities”

Katy believes there are a lot of people living in today’s society that have “invisible disabilities” who feel they are unable to work and have severe limitations because of it.

“I feel like those with invisible conditions are getting their lives, their talents and their capabilities squashed and thrown to the side. If society gave those with “invisible disabilities” just smidge of support, we would have a much better society, we would see people flourish, we would get people into a situation where they could earn for themselves and work in an environment that’s acceptable and safe. We need to raise awareness and acknowledge this issue so that people can live the life they’re supposed to lead. Then society would benefit as a whole.”

We’d like to thank Katy for taking the time to answer our questions and share her views on camera. If you’re living with an invisible condition and have had similar experiences, please feel free to leave your comments below or visit Katy’s channel invisible i on Youtube.

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