If my disability isn’t visible does the law protect me?

Do you know how many people around you right now are suffering from some form of disability? If you base your decision on just what you see, you might say there aren’t too many.

Those with experience in this area of social concern are well aware that for most people, disability has to be visible in order to exist. That is, unless a person uses a wheelchair, crutches, a walker or perhaps walks oddly, they must not be disabled at all. But according to data reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, that is just not the case.

Data collected in the 1994-1995 Survey of Income and Program Participation indicated then that 26 million individuals qualified as being severely disabled. But only about 7 million of them required some form of assistance device for mobility. That means the vast majority of Americans suffer from what are really invisible disabilities.

That they can’t be seen does not make those disabilities any less real, but it can make it difficult for a person to protect and exercise rights afforded by law, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and others in California.

Conditions that might be considered invisible disabilities are many. As one recent report noted, such ailments as Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, lupus, various mental disorders and diabetes would be included in this category. And in a five-year span starting in 2005, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said invisible conditions were the basis of most discrimination complaints.

Failure to meet the obligations of the ADA might not always be the result of an employer’s outright neglect. It could be a matter of ignorance. But that is no excuse for a company failing to properly accommodate a disability when it is recognized as one covered by law.

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