Welcome to our August issue of the Accessibility Minute Newsletter! This newsletter is produced by the CU Boulder Digital Accessibility Office and covers one accessibility skill or topic per month. Please visit the DAO website to access past newsletters. As always, thank you for taking a minute (or two!) to read.

What are Invisible Disabilities?

Invisible disabilities, also called non-visible, hidden, non-apparent, or unseen, refer to a wide range of disabilities that are not immediately apparent to others. Invisible disabilities can vary greatly and may include chronic illness and pain, mental health, cognitive, and sensory processing disabilities, and many others. A lack of understanding or recognition of invisible disabilities can lead to misconceptions, stigma, and inadequate support, both in the physical world and in digital spaces. In an effort to enhance awareness and empathy, this month’s newsletter provides tips on some ways you can support individuals with invisible disabilities.

Tips to Support Individuals with Invisible Disabilities

Educate Yourself

Take the time to educate yourself about different types of invisible disabilities and how interactions with others and different environments may impact daily life. Understanding the lived experiences of people with disabilities is a great first step toward providing meaningful support.

Respect Privacy and Autonomy

It's essential to respect an individual's privacy and autonomy. If someone chooses not to disclose their disability, don't push for information, or make assumptions. If they do choose to, it is their choice on when and how they want to share.

Be Patient and Understanding

People with invisible disabilities may face unpredictable symptoms or experiences. Approach people with patience and understanding, as someone may be experiencing things that you cannot see. For example, an individual with Diabetes may be experiencing low or high blood sugar levels, which may cause dizziness, light-headedness, fatigue, confusion, and nausea.

Create Accessible Digital Content

We mention this often, but we want to stress it because it creates an inclusive experience for users of all abilities. Ensure that all digital content, including websites, documents, and multimedia, is designed with accessibility in mind. Below are some examples of how you can create a more accessible digital environment:

  • Provide accessible presentation materials as early as possible to allow individuals to read through and process content before a live presentation.
  • Provide captions videos to allow individuals to process information in multiple formats.
  • Use readable fonts and sufficient color contrast.
  • Incorporate appropriate heading structure.
  • Avoid cluttering too much information on digital platforms and websites.

For guidance on creating accessible digital content, visit the DAO Resources page.

Provide Flexible Work and Study Policies

Advocate for flexible work and study policies that can accommodate the varying needs of individuals with invisible disabilities. Allowing for flexible schedules, multiple forms of assessment or understanding, and the use of assistive technologies will create a more inclusive and effective experience.

Design with Universal Design/Universal Design for Learning in Mind

According to the National Disability Association, “Universal Design (UD) is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.” Similarly, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for curriculum design that fosters an inclusive learning environment to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to succeed. Everyone’s experiences are unique, and when we design content with that in mind, everyone can benefit.
For example, if you're designing a website, try to create it with simple and intuitive use in mind. This essentially means that your website should be easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, literacy or language skills, or current concentration level.

Your Support Matters

Recognizing and supporting individuals with invisible disabilities is vital to creating an inclusive digital and physical space. Your support, awareness, and empathy matter to those around you and by displaying these characteristics, we can create opportunities for full participation in all aspects of one's life, regardless of abilities.

August Challenge

  • Examine or re-examine the spaces you create or use frequently and determine if it feels inclusive and inviting. If you find that these spaces are not inclusive, can you make any changes? For example:
    • Do you require in-person attendance, or can you make room for those that may not be able to attend in-person?
    • Do your physical spaces allow for ease of access and comfort regardless of ability or disability? Can you easily make adjustments to the space if a different need exists?

DAO News

The Digital Accessibility Office is hosting a series of events to celebrate Disability Awareness Month and the 50th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to enhance awareness and celebrate disability, accessibility, and inclusivity. These events are available to all CU Boulder staff, faculty, and students. For more information, visit the Disability Awareness Month Celebration webpage.

Follow the DAO on LinkedIn! By following us, you'll get access to behind-the-scenes insight on our office, information about our services, applicable accessibility tips posted every Tuesday, resources, upcoming event information, and more.

DAO Office Hours are now the 4th Tuesday of every month from 1-2 pm MT. Our next office hours will be held on Tuesday, September 26th.

Your Thoughts

We want to hear from you! If you have any questions or comments, please send us your thoughts on this month’s topic.

If you have questions, comments, or would like support with accessibility, please contact us at DigitalAccessibility@Colorado.EDU.