Making Invisible Disabilities Visible

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Blackburn with Darwen Leisure Services are supporting a campaign “Not Every Disability is Visible”

Crohn’s & Colitis UK launched the campaign around the stigma and misunderstanding that surround invisible disabilities. People are often subjected to discrimination just for trying to use the accessible toilet they urgently need.

New signage has been added to accessible toilets and changing facilities at the Leisure Centres which also has the aim of raising awareness with staff and members of the public.

Kathryn Boyes, who works for Blackburn with Darwen Council as an Activity Instructor in the re:fresh Motivate programme, spoke to us about the importance of the campaign:

“I’ve been challenged by people when I’ve been using disabled facilities, because they don’t necessarily understand that my disability is not visible.”

Kathryn has been using a stoma bag for just over a year after been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis three years ago.

Kathryn told us:

“I had been ill for over 7 years and the last 12 months have been so much better but being challenged when using disabled facilities can be quite distressing. I try to be honest with people and have even shown my stoma bag to a person who asked me why I was using the disabled toilets.

“Attitudes are changing though and hopefully this campaign is another step towards raising awareness of hidden disabilities.”

Dominic Harrison, Director of Public Health and Wellbeing at Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council said:

“Providing public facilities that positively include people with hidden disabilities is really important. It allows everyone in the community to participate equally. This is critically important in venues such as leisure centres because we know that improving our general health by increasing the amount of physical activity we undertake is one of the best ways to manage a long term health condition as it increases our resilience to mental and physical challenges. I am very proud of the leadership our services are taking on this issue”

With over 50% of people living with Crohn’s or Colitis having been challenged or discriminated against just for trying to access the accessible toilet facilities they urgently require, the “Not Every Disability is Visible” campaign is tackling this stigma by encouraging the installation of new accessible toilet signage. The campaign is hoping to roll out to all businesses across the UK with the new signage making the invisible, visible.

Picture: Kathryn Boyes at Blackburn Sports and Leisure Centre.