As I’m sure you’ll be aware, not all disabilities involve obvious outward physical signs.
Here in the UK, many people with hidden disabilities choose to wear a green lanyard decorated with bright yellow sunflowers to indicate that they have a disability, illness, and/or chronic condition.
Among those who wear them are those with sight, hearing, or other sensory impairments, people with mental health conditions, people with age-related conditions, those with brain injuries, and those with chronic health conditions such as IBS or chronic fatigue syndrome.
The official lanyards are available for a small fee online at https://hiddendisabilitiesstore.com/ or for free from some supermarkets for anyone who thinks they may benefit from one. Charities benefit from sales.
Wearing one of these lanyards let's people know that you might need a little extra help, patience, or understanding, or perhaps just some kindness, and there is no requirement for people to disclose their condition when obtaining one. It is a “trust-based” system.
I often wear one myself if I know that I will be in a crowded shopping centre or somewhere outside of my comfort zone, and I have found them to be very useful in helping people to understand that I may sometimes find it difficult to speak or understand them in certain, stressful situations.
Refusing to wear a face mask invites public shaming, not to mention boosting the risk of COVID-19. So what keeps these people from putting one on?
There are of course some people who will be exempt:
Children under the age of 11 (Public Health England does not recommend face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons)
People who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability.
Police officers and other emergency workers, given that this may interfere with their ability to serve the public.
And some situations where a face mask may be not be worn:
Where putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
If you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate
To avoid the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others.
Exemption Certificates and cards are available for people who genuinely cannot wear a face mask, but the number of people in this category is small indeed. If you have asthma, pop along to Asthma UK and follow their guidance.
But there will also be a percentage of people who are simply lazy and selfish. Others will call themselves " freedom lovers" claiming that masks are a form of "control."
And if you don't want to wear a face mask. Fine. make your protest and press your case. But DON'T hide behind a hidden disability lanyard.
It betrays the good work and reputation of the good people at https://hiddendisabilitiesstore.com/ .
It betrays all of us people with hidden disabilities.
Rip-offs can be found all over the internet. Some are accurate facsimiles and many are awful copies. NONE of them are attached to a charitable cause. Avoid them like the plague.
I have taken to wearing a more specific lanyard when necessary nowadays. It has a purple ribbon with I HAVE DEMENTIA written on, and a card that simply has my first name, states that I have dementia and asks people to be kind and understanding. On the reverse side is the first name and contact number of my carer.
It makes me sad and angry that there some selfish people destroying the integrity of this lanyard scheme for their own selfish ends - and there's really not much that can be done about it. I just hope that the hidden disability lanyard doesn't become another victim of COVID 19.