WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
Invisible illnesses affect more people than you would think. According to the World Health Organization, a billion people around the world live with some kind of disability (WHO, 2018) and a recent US survey found that 74% of those with disabilities do not use a wheelchair or any kind of aid which might make their disability more obvious to others (BBC, 2017).
The Department for Work and Pensions and the Office for Disability Issues have confirmed that ‘disabled people are significantly more likely to experience unfair treatment at work than non-disabled people’ (Gov.UK, 2014). Additionally, the World Health Organization warn that negative attitudes and misconceptions about disability are current barriers to health care for people with disabilities; a negative influence on clinical decision making; and ‘undermine the possibility for people with disabilities to make friends, express their sexuality, and achieve the family life that non-disabled people take for granted’ (WHO, 2011). When you consider the stigma that surrounds disability, even today, think about the increased stigma that surrounds invisible illnesses – where symptoms are not as easily seen or understood, and the conversation has only recently begun. That is why we want to educate our future employers and health professionals on the importance of understanding invisible illnesses. We believe that education is a fundamental step in changing attitudes and, consequently, paving the way for an equal future. Deconstructing common stereotypes will improve the students’ empathy for their disabled classmates, future colleagues, bosses, neighbours, and partners. Moreover, this increase in understanding and accommodation should also create a more comfortable environment for those students suffering from invisible illnesses – mental or physical - and assist them in achieving their full potential. In addition to changing attitudes, we shall also educate the students on the Equality Act 2010 – ensuring that each child grows up aware of their rights in the workplace and should never stand for any form of discrimination (whether as a victim or witness).
So, that's why education is important. But what about ensuring each young person has sufficient support? The DWP and Office for Disability Issues state that Disabled people are around 3 times less likely to hold any qualifications compared to non-disabled people; and around half as likely to hold a degree-level qualification (Gov.UK, 2014). Although there is little research on this topic, the inequality is clear, and we argue that one of the factors causing this inequality is lack of sufficient support. That is why we want to ensure that every student is able to reach their full potential, leaving school with more qualifications, and – as a result – being able to live more independently (Over a quarter of disabled people currently say that they do not frequently have choice and control over their daily lives (Gov.UK, 2014)). Providing sufficient support to students is imperative for, not only academic performance, but healthy wellbeing. Especially when one considers the rise in mental health issues in UK schools (The Guardian, 2017).
Also, to become a society that truly understands and accommodates those with disabilities - there should be an increase in representation within politics and other high power positions. An increase in qualified disabled people will help towards an increase in such representation.
Having both been through the education system ourselves, whilst suffering with chronic illnesses, we are aware that not every student who may benefit from support may qualify for the Government’s Education and Health Care Plan, and even those who do qualify may not be receiving sufficient support. We want to ensure that every young person feels 100% safe and supported at school - ensuring that no child's disability gets in the way of them achieving their full potential.
Harrison, P. (2017). Thousands share their invisible disabilities on Twitter. BBC News.
[online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/disability-41733769 [Accessed 3 Jul. 2018].
The Department for Work and Pensions and the Office for Disability Issues (2014). Disability facts and figures. London: Gov.UK.
[online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/disability-facts-and-figures/disability-facts-and-figures [Accessed 3 Jul. 2018].
The Guardian(2017). The Guardian view on children’s mental health: not an optional extra. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/20/the-guardian-view-on-childrens-mental-health-not-an-optional-extra [Accessed 3 Jul. 2018].
World Health Organization. (2018). Disability and health.
[online] Available at: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/disability-and-health [Accessed 3 Jul. 2018].
World Health Organization (2011). World Report on Disability. Malta: World Health Organization. [online] Available at: http://www.who.int/disabilities/world_report/2011/report.pdf [Accessed 3 Jul. 2018].