Mission for Mobility

Inspiration moving you forward

About Hidden Disabilities


According to the 2012 U.S. Census, more than 12 percent of the United States population lives with a disability. Of those, only two percent have physical, developmental or intellectual disabilities that are visible to others. The vast majority – some estimates put the figure as high 1 in every 10 people – live with “invisible” or “silent” disabilities that can significantly impact quality of life. And, as the population ages, the number of people living with hidden disabilities – often multiple disabilities – will continue to rise.


Hidden disabilities are real physical, cognitive or emotional challenges that are not visible or readily apparent to others. These silent disabilities can affect an individual’s ability to learn, work, communicate, socialize and connect with others in a meaningful way, live independently or participate fully in everyday life. Because people with hidden disabilities “look normal,” they often struggle to find acceptance and support. People with silent disabilities often feel isolated. Many are accused of being lazy, stupid or anti-social.


The list of hidden disabilities is long. It includes:


  • Hearing loss.

  • Low vision.

  • Chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, migraine headaches, arthritis, chronic pain and chronic fatigue.

  • Learning disorders, such as dyslexia or issues related to executive functioning.

  • Mental health problems, like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and schizophrenia.

  • Traumatic brain injuries.

  • Addiction and chemical dependency.

  • Autism spectrum disorders and other intellectual disabilities.

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

  • Cancer.


What You Can Do


There are many ways you can support people with hidden disabilities and promote their inclusion. You can:


  • Advocate for inclusion and access to environments that support people with hidden disabilities with employers, businesses, community organizations, housing services and other groups.


  • Learn about your disability.


  • Learn to advocate for your needs and support the advocacy efforts of others.


  • Treat everyone with respect and dignity.


  • Reach out and connect with others living with hidden disabilities.


  • Tell your story to others to help increase awareness of hidden disabilities.


  • Take action. Let legislators, employers and other decision-makers know about your disability and your concerns.


  • Volunteer with organizations focused on your disability or interest.