Making invisible disabilities visible

This year’s Disability Week focused on disabilities that are not visible at first glance. The head of the task team for the week, Nangamso Myoli, discussed the importance of this, saying, “people are suffering in different ways but we don’t see them.”

The week involved talks from people who have suffered with psychosocial disabilities and has been a thought provoking and encouraging experience for everyone involved. Ian Sieboger, the chair of the events, discussed how this week has strived to help people understand  the need to be aware of these kinds of disabilities. This is especially true for lecturers, as they will frequently have students with these kinds of disabilities in their classes and should be informed about not overlooking such cases..

The week ended off with a successful art exhibition hosted by Rachel Baasch from USKAR’s Fine Arts department. Myoli said she wanted to make the campaign tangible, and so asked the Fine Arts department to come on board.

In Baasch’s address to the crowd, she mentioned how the process of making invisible disabilities visible is incomplete, noting that we still lack the proper language to discuss disabilities. Based on this idea of how far transformation still has to go, she chose to have incomplete artworks displayed in the exhibition. “It’s not something that’s resolved, so why display resolved artwork?” she said.

Students and staff came together to create pieces that aimed to show what it means to them to have an invisible disability. Sivan Erlendsson’s unfinished painting was of an ice cube in a desert. “It is a surrealist perspective of how it feels to be isolated from society,” she said.

Many others – like photographer Lungisa Madywabe and painter Taryn Benade – contributed to the displays at the exhibition. An interesting and unexpected piece was Pearl, the service dog for Dylan McGarry. According to McGarry,  “the most… long lasting cure is my relationship with animals.”

The exhibition also featured a performance by some third year drama students. It was a improvisational piece based on the stories from the members of the crowd. Baasch was one of these members and discussed how seeing a panicked situation from the outside can sometimes show you how ridiculous the situation is, while being in the situation feels out of control.

According to Baasch, there is a lot more that needs to be done in the process of making the university campus more hospitable to people with disabilities. She encouraged people to take initiative in getting educated about disabilities we cannot see. “So let’s learn a little bit more about how we are going to accommodate invisible disabilities at this university” she said.


words by Andrea Green-Thompson