BLOG: The Many Faces of Hidden Disabilities

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By Natasha, North Yorkshire Self-Advocacy health rep.

Hidden disabilities come in many forms and many people with hidden disabilities have multiple conditions which aren’t always seen by the naked eye. We can also sometimes struggle with our mobility which affects our access to shops. Like me and many others I have good and bad mobility days and my best friend is my walking stick.

I am guilty of window-shopping because there are some shops I would love to go in.  A big no, no, are aisles that are close together with lots of delicate items on display.  I get paranoid as I am scared of banging in to something and breaking it as my worst trick is knocking things off shelves accidentally.

Narrow entrances or steep steps to shops can be a real struggle for me and uneven flooring, different colour flooring and the wobbly floor can all make me unsteady on my feet.  Some days are hard for me when I’m shopping as I am not confident enough to ask for help when I’m looking for something to buy.

Some shops decide to rearrange their shelves overnight and this can be a real torment because as I enter the shop the panic builds up inside of me when I see things are not in the right place. Suddenly, the shop I know well and I feel safe in, might as well be an unknown shop.

If I do manage to ask where something is, I don’t understand as they will say “it’s straight down there, take a left and it’s 2 shelves down.”  I don’t know my left from my right and I start panicking even more as in my head the shop looks the same.  It would be really helpful if shop assistants could lead me directly to the item I am looking for and then ask if there is anything else they can help me with.

Paying is always on my mind and I dread this the moment I enter the shop so I am instantly looking for a friendly face. I am aware that the shop assistant is staring at me as I start to pay for my shopping so I pray that my card works first time or if I am paying with cash that they are patient with me and help me count my money.  Plus, I hope the shop assistant gives me time to pay and that I am not rushed as I put my purse away.  I often see unhappy faces behind me who don’t understand why I need help. I can often be seen packing my bag away from the checkout and then I feel invisible and in the way.  No one comes to offer a helping hand but are quick to ask me to move and some even pick my things and move them.  This leaves me feeling frightened and struggle to keep up and then I am terrified that I have not managed to pack up all my items. 

I want to thank those who have helped me and made shopping a pleasant experience.  If I don’t recognise you I am sorry as I find it challenging to remember names and faces.  Please look for someone wearing a green lanyard with sunflowers on it as this helps people like me who have a hidden disability as I am autistic. Thank you!


For more information about self-advocacy in North Yorkshire you can follow the group on twitter and instagram. You can also contact Karen Murray at or on 07833 309 693.

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