How to Empower Employees with Invisible Disabilities


How to Empower Employees with Invisible Disabilities (And Build a Disability-Inclusive Culture). Have you tried to empower employees with invisible disabilities? Invisible disabilities are difficult to grasp because you can’t see them and people with invisible disabilities often hide them.

So what can you do? 

In this blog post, you’ll learn about the hidden struggles of people with invisible disabilities, how to support them with respect, and the crucial role of an inclusive support environment at work.

Let’s get started.

The hidden struggles of people with invisible disabilities 

Did you know there are 1.7 billion people globally with a disability? And, according to a report by the UK government, 70-80% of disabilities are invisible. That means, your colleague at work could have an underlying mental health condition or an energy-limiting condition. They could have a neurodivergence like autism or Adhd, a cognitive impairment like epilepsy, or hearing loss. 

But here’s the problem.

If your colleague is living with Adhd like me, they might make excuses or lie to keep their disability a secret and then feel different, alone, and excluded. What you might not know is, when we try to disclose our invisible disability we often face disbelief. 

Our colleagues think we’re too lazy because we spend time staring out the window and our boss thinks we’re not good enough because we asked for that third coffee break.

Rachael Mole, a disability and inclusion entrepreneur and managing director of Moleworks Solutions says:

“Many people with invisible disabilities, especially those asking for accommodations and disclosing their conditions are often met with skepticism and challenge–are you really disabled? Do you really need these things or are you making it up?”

Rachael Mole

That’s when our self-esteem drops like a rock, we start living our inauthentic selves and damage our health and well-being. So, how can you empower your colleagues with invisible disabilities and improve disability inclusion?

Let’s take a look.

Build a bridge to disability inclusion. You can build a bridge to disability inclusion in three ways.

First, establish a level of open communication, free of judgment and disbelief. Remember, many people with invisible disabilities, struggle with their own internalised ableism. And, talking about their conditions usually ends up with someone at work rolling their eyes in disbelief.

Make sure your workplace isn’t extending to this ableism. Keep communications open and you’ll be one step ahead to building the trust you need.

The next way to build trust says Mole is by developing written policies around disability and accessibility and making sure they are routinely reviewed and acted on.

“If your organisation is large enough, having a disability employee resource group could also be a great way to show the commitment to listening to disabled voices of all kinds.”

There’s an infectious power in growing a community of accessibility advocates with disabled people.

Finally, Mole says:

Make sure reasonable accommodations are taken seriously, follow through on promises around the privacy of conversations, and make sure sick days or time off for appointments aren’t going to be a negative mark on records. 

Do this, and you’ll get the best out of your team, and inspire disability inclusion in the workplace. Show the value of human welcome for employees with invisible disabilities.

The reality is, there’s an ever-increasing need to understand how to empower employees with invisible disabilities. 

So nudge for those open conversations, embrace their needs, and include their exclusive talents. Then, you’ll be well on your way to empowering your team and building that culture of disability inclusion you desire.