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Interacting with People who have Invisible (Hidden) Disabilities

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation & Johns Hopkins University reported in 2004 that 10% of Americans have a medical condition which could be considered an invisible disability. There are many disabilities that are not apparent when casually interacting with an individual. Invisible disabilities include chronic illnesses such as chronic pain and chronic fatigue, mental illness, chronic dizziness, renal failure, diabetes, and sleep disorders -- if those diseases significantly impair normal activities of daily living. Noticeable indictors may include staggering of walk (gait), slowness, hesitancy in speech or walking, etc. 96% of people with chronic medical conditions live with an illness that is invisible. Positive etiquette for people with hidden disability includes the following:

  • Be patient and sensitive
  • Be courteous
  • Ask for assistance before greeting: hugging or shaking hands
  • Find suitable activities of involvement for service
  • Lend assistance when a member is participating. Ask first
Accessibility Changes
  • Educate congregation on various disabilities
  • Conduct a church survey to determine the needs of people with disabilities in the church
  • Encourage the person with a chronic disability to advocate on behalf of others



Invisible Disabilities Association
The Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA) encourages, educates and connects people and organizations touched by illness, pain and injury around the globe.  

Rest Ministries
Rest Ministries, Inc. is a non-profit organization that serves people who live with chronic illness or pain, & their families, by providing spiritual, emotional, relational, & practical support through a variety of programs & resources.