Serving riders with non-apparent disabilities

UZURV riders have a wide range of abilities, as well as a wide range of disabilities – not all of which are obvious.

UZURV spoke with Michelle Witman, co-founder of Asset Based Consulting, a firm that helps companies and groups remove barriers for people with disabilities.

“We work with organizations of all types to shift company culture so we all understand that everybody has an asset to offer,” Witman said.

Buildings, technology, and transportation are often filled with obstacles for people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act ensures that communities make reasonable accommodations and modifications so people with disabilities can fully participate.

However, removing obstacles for people with non-apparent disabilities can be more challenging than for those with apparent disabilities. If a disability isn’t easily noticed, it can be overlooked – or even discounted.

What is a non-apparent disability?

A non-apparent disability is a physical, mental, or neurological condition that is not visible from the outside, yet can limit or challenge a person’s movements, senses, or activities.

Some examples of non-apparent disabilities include:

  • Autism
  • Epilepsy
  • Brain Injury
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Mental Illness such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder

Because disabilities like the ones listed above can create mobility limitations, UZURV Drivers provide transportation access for people with both apparent and non-apparent disabilities. By offering rides, Drivers proactively remove mobility barriers so riders can participate fully in their communities.

Working with people who have non-apparent disabilities

Witman offered two pieces of advice to UZURV Drivers when working with and for people whose disabilities aren’t obvious.

Replace judgment with curiosity

“We have a lot of preconceived notions and assumptions about people with non-apparent disabilities,” said Witman. “We automatically come from a place of judgment.”

“I ask people to withhold their judgment and replace it with curiosity,” she continued. “Ask riders questions like, ‘What can I do to help you be successful today?’”

It’s important to note that curiosity should not lead to intrusive questions or a HIPAA violation. If a rider does not appear to have a disability, drivers are instructed not to ask what their disability is or why they are riding with UZURV.

For instance, if a rider does not make eye contact, rather than assuming they are being rude, they may have a non-apparent disability that makes it difficult to maintain eye contact. 

Rather than judge their behavior, drivers are asked how they prefer to communicate on the ride that day.

Drivers stay in conversation with their rider

Supporting a rider with non-apparent disabilities is not always obvious.

That’s why it’s important drivers ask riders before every ride what they need to be successful that day, so their ride can be as seamless and enjoyable as possible.

Drivers ask the Golden Question, “What can I do to assist you to the vehicle today?

You don’t know what someone needs unless you ask.

Drivers are encouraged to stay in conversation with their rider about what they need at any given time. Every rider has different needs that change from day to day, sometimes from moment to moment. The only way to know is to ask and listen.

“It’s such an easy lift to ask what someone needs,” said Witman. “And it makes all the difference in the world.”