Some disabilities are not immediately obvious and are referred to as hidden disabilities. These are common in the workplace but often go unrecognised due to low levels of awareness, disclosure and support. Hidden disabilities can be from birth or acquired throughout life.
The most common hidden disabilities in the workplace are:
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome / ME
Hidden disabilities can have a considerable impact on day to day life, with a knock-on effect on working life. Symptoms of hidden disabilities can be short or long term, stable or progressive and unpredictable. Symptoms of hidden disabilities are often exacerbated by fatigue and stress.
Hidden disabilities regularly present no obvious external symptoms; as a result disclosure is often not made until an area of difficulty has been identified, frequently when performance is not meeting expected standards. Creating a work environment in which hidden disabilities can be discussed, free from stigma, is vital as hidden disabilities must first be disclosed before appropriate support can be determined and put in place. This requires increasing awareness of hidden disabilities across the organization.
Guidance for managing the most common physical and hidden disability is provided here.