When disability can’t be seen: improving knowledge of hidden disabilities with The Sunnybank Trust

A hidden disability, as the name suggests, is a disability that is not visible to others. This often means that people with hidden disabilities often don’t receive the extra time, consideration or support that they need to complete everyday tasks.  

Credit: Richard Lea

Surrey-based charity, The Sunnybank Trust, who support adults with learning disabilities, feel so strongly about improving knowledge and understanding of hidden disabilities within their local community that they launched a Breaking Barriers campaign last year.

EDUCATION

The campaign aims to educate and support local businesses, organisations and community groups to make small adjustments that will enable people with hidden disabilities to access employment, transport and community services more easily.

As well as sharing tips online to local businesses, their Breaking Barriers campaign saw them meeting with executives at Heathrow Airport to offer advice on how to improve their services for disabled passengers. 

CEO at The Sunnybank Trust, Dorothy Watson, says: “We see how the people we support struggle on a daily basis to access the services that everyone else takes for granted.

“People with hidden disabilities have to work harder than anyone else to be seen, understood and supported. We need to see change in our communities to ensure that everyone gets a fair chance of living their lives in the way that they want.” 

And they haven’t stopped there. 

ON THE AIR

The charity’s Sunny Sessions radio show, a twice-weekly show created for and with the learning disability community, regularly showcases outstanding individuals with disabilities in their #BeyondTheLabel interview series.

Credit: Richard Lea

In a recent interview, DJ Jon spoke to Alex, who is autistic and has Asperger’s; Alex shared his experiences of living with a hidden disability and the impact it has had on his life.

Alex says: “[Having a hidden disability] has been a bit of a challenge to say the least because some people might not know that I’ve got [Autism and Asperger’s].

“Some people just sort of write me off.”

When talking of past employment, Alex felt that he was held back and not given ample opportunities to progress in his role, he says: “Because of my disability they thought I was only good for one sort of job.”

Credit: Richard Lea

By sharing stories like Alex’s, and continuing to advocate for better accessibility in the community, The Sunnybank Trust hopes to raise awareness of how communities can support people with disabilities, hidden and visible, sometimes just with some understanding, compassion and small adjustments. 

The Sunny Sessions radio show airs every Monday and Thursday at 11am on Surrey Hills Community Radio (www.surreyhillsradio.co.uk).  

To find out more about The Sunnybank Trust and their work, visit www.sunnybanktrust.org