Rachel: Taking a look at invisible disability

Rachel completed her Bachelor of International Studies degree in 2009. She is an avid traveller with a passion for helping her community.

In a day and age when anyone with a freezer and camera can promote awareness of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) through an ice bucket challenge, it saddens me that discussions about hidden disabilities aren’t more comfortably championed by people living with them. ‘Disability’ shouldn’t be a dirty word clouded by stigma, but unfortunately this is still the case and therefore those affected by disability often don’t want to be associated with it. Even if a new word were coined to describe the psychological, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental or physical impairments which ‘disability’ encompasses, without addressing and breaking down the misunderstandings and stigma that exist, over time any new term would also engender the same negative connotations. For this reason, it’s much more productive to break down current stigma and misunderstandings than to start from scratch with a new terminology.

Most people recognise disability as a physical state, but did you know that around 90 per cent of disabilities (Australian Network for Disability) are invisible? That’s around 3,600,000 Australians living with conditions like diabetes, depression, cancer, anxiety, MS, dyslexia and autism, to name a few. USQ recognises how common disability is – invisible and otherwise – which is why a suite of resources and support are available at Student Services for students affected by disability. If you register your disability with the Disability Support Team, we will create a personalised Learning Support Plan outlining adjustments to help you complete your studies on an equitable playing field. Studying online? We’ll chat to you over the phone or via email.

USQ lets you choose how much you want to disclose about your disability to your lecturers through your Learning Support Plan. Maybe you don’t mind if the name of your condition and how it affects you is known, or you might prefer to just state the effects, or even leave your disability undisclosed; it’s entirely up to you.

The important thing to remember is that at USQ, disability does not mean invisibility. Whether out there for the world to see or kept private, disability is not a barrier to success in study or life; a truth that will hopefully be shown first-hand in the next blog post!

If you’re a student living with a disability we’d love to hear your perspective! Do you manage your disability and study on your own? To share your thoughts and experiences with us, send an email to social.media@usq.edu.au.


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