Disability does not mean inability
December 3 is International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). Since its inception in 1992, IDPD is an international observance promoted by the United Nations. This year’s theme is “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World”. We spoke with Steven Torres, MS, Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic Therapist, about IDPD and how persons with disabilities are faring during the Covid-19 crisis.
How common are disabilities?
The American Disability Act (ADA) of 1990 defines disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such impairment”. Many times, people tend to think of disability as a physical impairment, which is not always true. There are four categories: intellectual, physical, sensory, and mental illness. Within these categories there are an abundance of types of disabilities under each of these categories. As of 2017, around 13.2 percent of the U.S. population had some type of disability (Elfein, 2019).
Invisible disability, or hidden disability, is a term that encompasses a whole spectrum of disabilities that are primarily neurological. These disabilities are not immediately apparent. For example, some individuals who experience vision disabilities may wear contacts. People are visual learners, so they may not immediately grasp the concept of invisible disabilities.
A sitting disability is another category of invisible impairments. Chronic back pain is a likely cause of these disabilities. Some rarely use any aids, therefore making their condition unapparent to others despite the challenge it poses for the individual daily.
What are some examples of "invisible" disabilities?
Here are just several invisible disabilities: ADHD, anosmia, anxiety disorders, allergies, autism spectrum disorder, psychiatric, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome (Warren, 2020).
How has COVID affected persons with disabilities?
Since his year’s theme for International Day of Persons with Disabilities is “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World," it's important to understand how the pandemic has affected those with disabilities. Recent research on the COVID-19 pandemic reveals increased psychological distress both in the general population and among high-risk groups. There are unique stressors that could worsen mental health for people with disabilities during the pandemic. “Some people with disabilities report higher levels of social isolation than their nondisabled counterparts. They may experience intensified feelings of loneliness in response to physical distancing measures. Social isolation and loneliness have been associated with increases in heart disease, dementia and other health problems” (Galea et al, 2020). In addition, limited access to appropriate medical care can intensify discriminatory attitudes towards disabled individuals during times of crisis. This can obviously influence an individual’s choice to attempt to receive appropriate medical care.
What programs does Acenda offer to help those with disabilities?
Acenda offers a wide diverse range of services in helping meet the needs of our consumers. Some of these services are being delivered via telehealth such as individual therapy, medication management, intensive outpatient program, case management services, services for our veterans, children and family services, crisis intervention, services to our elderly population. Acenda has been an organization that continues to grow in making sure the continuity of services are delivers and met with the highest golden standards.
If you or a loved one are suffering from any disabilities, hidden or otherwise, our clinicians and care managers are available to assist you through our Community Behavioral Health Clinic located in Gloucester County. Call (856) 494-8484 to determine eligibility for CCBHC services.
Elfein, J. (2019). Disability in the U.S.- Statistics & Facts. Statista.
Galea, S., Merchant, R. M., Lurie N. (2020). The mental health consequences of COVID-19 and physical distancing: The need for prevention and early intervention. JAMA Intern Med.
Warren, R.J. (2020). The impact of invisible illness and invisible disability on music therapy practica students, Journal of Music Therapy, 57(2).