Paralympian Tells of Negative Reactions to Hidden Disability

Gold medallist and British Paralympian Kadeena Cox has spoken out about hidden disabilities and how they can be perceived by the outside world. She has encountered many instances where people have accused her of faking her disability and reacted badly despite the fact that her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis has been diagnosed for many years. As an NDIS provider on the Gold Coast, our support workers report daily about the awful abuse faced by those with hidden disabilities. We are grateful to Ms Cox for speaking up and helping raise the profile so the problems can be dealt with.

Relapsing and Remitting

There are many different types of multiple sclerosis, all of which affect the nerves and brain. However, the condition she has is known as relapsing and remitting, which means her abilities and disabilities will differ from day to day. She has spoken about people challenging her for using her blue badge for priority parking or not giving up a disabled seat on a bus or train. She also reports abuse on social media, with people claiming there is no way she can be disabled, and she is faking it to con money from the department for work and pensions. None of which is true.

Bupa Survey 

Private healthcare company BUPA which is the official healthcare partner for Paralympics GB and the charity scope that work for disability equality, have carried out a joint survey that looks at people with disabilities, including hidden conditions. They were able to gather opinions from 382 disabled people, and the results were pretty disappointing. More than 76% of disabled people reported that they had been the subject of rude or insensitive comments about their condition. Around 70% said they have also been challenged regarding disabled parking or travelling and questioned about the nature of their disability. 68% of the survey respondents have also been told to their face, ‘but you don’t look disabled.’

Overcoming Challenges

As well as having a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, Kadeena Cox has also suffered from a condition described as disordered eating, and in 2014 she had a stroke. Despite this, at the Paralympic games in Rio in 2016, she won gold medals in both cycling and athletics. She is a wheelchair user but falls into the category of an ambulatory wheelchair user, which means she can walk; however, the benefits to her health and the days when her conditions relapse mean the wheelchair gives her the freedom to carry on with life. She spoke about her struggles, saying: “I struggle with an eating disorder that I’ve openly spoken about, so that’s one challenge. It really makes you question your life sometimes. Now I’ve got this disability; my mental health is struggling because people are commenting on my disability, and I just feel like you’re fighting a losing battle. There are some days when I’m just like, ‘What am I fighting for?’ But the reality is I’m fighting for all those people that are in this position and feel like there’s nothing to fight for.”

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