Varsha: What are good examples of what society’s doing to support people with hidden disabilities?
Joanna Wootten, Disability and Inclusion Expert: Well, I think it’s interesting, it’s an area we seem to be glowing [?] now. So for example, in London we have something called the ‘Please Offer Me a Seat’ scheme so that people can ask to wear a badge if they want to and then if they want to sit down they don’t have to explain they’ve got MS or it may be a different condition, and then somebody will offer their seat.
It’s a bit like the pregnancy thing, you know, when people got pregnant. Also in airports, now you have things like the lanyards, so if people have a hidden disability they can ask to wear a lanyard so people around the airport know that they have a hidden disability, but also it makes it easier to ask if you need something. So maybe you need to sit down or something, or you need to get to where you have to a bit more quickly because it’s a bit tiring, you can do that and they’ll facilitate that.
Varsha: Thank you. Would you recommend somebody with a disability to ask for these lanyards and cards?
Joanna Wootten: I think it really depends. I think it depends on… it may depend, if you’re going somewhere new, you may want to try it out, or you may want to have it in your pocket for emergencies only. You may not want to use it all the time. But I think it is a sign of society getting better at recognising that a disability may not be obvious and that adjustment may be helpful.
Varsha: Do you think that people with disabilities will feel like, why do I have to justify that I have a disability. Why can’t a simple question asked that, you know, I need help, why is that not sufficient?
Joanna Wootten: I think sometimes it is. I think for some people they don’t want to have to have a conversation about it, the difficulty is sometimes if you don’t have a card or a lanyard or whatever, if you have to have a conversation a little bit, because- or you may feel you have to say, you can’t just say, please can I have your seat. You have to go, please can I have your seat, because…
And then somebody goes, oh, oh my aunt had that, blah-di-blah. And do you really want to have that conversation when you’re on public transport or going to the airport. It’s entirely up to you, but for others, if they have a card, it’s kind of, sometimes people respect authority, what have you, view the card a little bit like, oh, you’ve got a baby bump, oh right, I’ll give up my seat, fine. And you don’t have to have that conversation.
This interview is part of a series called ‘Hidden MS’ which is supported by Roche. MS Reporters™ is a Shift.ms production. Roche has had no influence over the content.