Hidden Mobility Disabilities: Making the Invisible Visible


Hidden mobility disability   means being able to walk unaided but only a short distance without health consequences.

Everyone recognizes the international symbol of the wheelchair for disabled individuals, but there are many more individuals with reduced mobility that is not readily apparent and for whom everyday accessibility is an issue.

Are you limiting your social or physical activities because it is painful to walk very far? Do you have trouble standing in a queue for more than a few minutes without intense pain? Do you find it frustrating to be told that you should walk “just over there” (“not far”) when the distance indicated is much further than you can walk comfortably?

We are the first organization to research and advocate for the accessibility needs of persons with hidden mobility disabilities. We have already published the HMD Fact Sheet and Research Report #1 and are continuing to collect data. If you are able to walk but can only walk short distances without severe pain, please take our survey!

“I was surprised when I received the survey because its relevance became readily apparent.  Previously, I had considered these difficulties as just ‘old’.”

Your answers will be kept confidential. Also, please consider joining the Hidden Mobility Disabilities Alliance (HMDA) to help make a difference (info on membership types).

Millions of independently mobile individuals have difficulty walking more than a short distance; however, many are afraid to speak up and identify themselves as having a mobility disability because after all they can walk – some. When people think of mobility disabilities, they think of the visible type – those using wheelchairs or scooters. They think in terms of ensuring maneuverability and a smooth surface. They overlook the other group – those with a hidden mobility disability for whom distance, not maneuverability, is the primary issue. The number of adults of all ages with hidden mobility disabilities is growing, and yet this type of disability is invisible even within the “disabilities community.”

This can be a life or death issue. Among the most serious incidents, a woman with a hidden mobility disability who had requested wheelchair assistance but been pressured by airline staff to walk fell backwards on an escalator to her death at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.


Hidden mobility disability   means being able to walk unaided but only a short distance without health consequences.

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