This Disability History Month seen the launch of Students’ Association Disabled Students’ Officer Chloë Marvin’s new liberation campaign to highlight invisible disabilities.
Thousands of people in the UK are living with conditions and disabilities that cannot be physically seen, such as Crohn’s disease, Colitis and IBS.
The new signs on all accessible bathrooms across Edinburgh University Students’ Association venues – including Potterrow, Teviot and Pleasance – encourages students to refrain from questioning other people for using these bathrooms.
In her manifesto, Marvin pledged to run a ‘not every disability is visible’ campaign, intending to raise awareness of the idea that not everyone who needs to use an accessible bathroom will necessarily look ‘traditionally’ disabled.
Chloë spoke to The Student, saying that the campaign’s purpose is twofold.
She wants “to make disabled students who might want to use the bathroom, but feel nervous, feel comfortable doing so”, she said.
Secondly she wants “to encourage non-disabled allies not to question people using the bathroom even if they don’t ‘look’ disabled.”
She hopes that the initiative “makes disabled students feel more comfortable using the accessible bathrooms if they need to and that other students are educated in how to be supportive allies as a result.”
Initiatives like this are not unique to facilities at the University of Edinburgh.
In 2016, Asda campaigned to put up ‘hidden disabilities’ signs on accessible bathrooms in 421 of their British supermarkets.
Asda’s initiative was highly praised by Sue Bott, Deputy CEO at Disability Rights UK, who is quoted in The Independent saying: “It will help to take the stigma away from those who may need to use such toilets for reasons other than having a mobility impairment.”
These campaigns are part of a move to recognise and support people with invisible health conditions, as many of them fear confrontation when using accessible bathrooms because they feel like they don’t reflect the narrow stereotype that is often applied to people with disabilities.
This recent initiative shows the importance of fighting for the rights of all disabled students, regardless of the student’s outward physical appearance.
Image: Sara Konradi / Photographer