Are visible differences a disability? - Changing Faces

Changing Faces

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Are visible differences a disability?

youniqueCommunity Ambassador

Because often our visible differences affect our worklife, our personal lives, and well pretty much every aspect of how we exist in the world... do you consider them to be a disability?

I think the medical field may consider them cosmetic and therefore not a condition that significantly impedes an individual's ability to live a productive life, but I haven't done much research into it. I just know that there are a lot of disabilities that can't be seen, so I'm curious what others think about this.

Do you consider yours to be a disability, or have you been told by professionals/specialists that it's a verified disability?

I of course am not referring to differences that have caused obvious challenges such as mobility, hearing or vision problems.. I mean specifically visible differences only.

(The image illustrates how I believe many of us experience internalized ableism, similar to that of individuals with recognizable disabilities).

Thanks for your feedback!

19 Replies
AlwaysSmilingCommunity Ambassador

I agree, the medical field definitely refer to them as more of a cosmetic thing these days. As I was growing up and needing the most surgery and treatment for my conditions, they saw them more as a medical problem but now I am older they refer to my conditions as more cosmetic challenges. They still impact my life in the same way as they used to though. Yes I may think of how my appearance makes me feel too but I mainly want my body to function as it should!! (Hope what I said makes sense😂)

youniqueCommunity Ambassador in reply to AlwaysSmiling

Yes good points! I think not having the insight into how fully we are impacted by our differences, tends to leave many people believing it's cosmetic. I'm glad you were able to get treatment when you were younger, is it hard to go back for treatment now? Or have you become comfortable with the procedures? I want the results of further correction, but the idea of going through recovery again makes me feel like I should just try to make the best of my life as I am. I too am held back by my difference and I completely understand what you mean about wanting your body to function as it should. 🤗

AlwaysSmilingCommunity Ambassador in reply to younique

I am still able to get my treatment for free unlike if it were for cosmetic purposes although the surgeons still focus more on the cosmetic side of things which isn't actually the most important part for me.

I would say that if you are considering further surgery, weigh up the pros and cons and see if one outweighs the other. However if you are really unsure or unhappy with the way you look at the minute then maybe you should just go for it! If you've done it before then I believe you're strong enough to do it again!😊

youniqueCommunity Ambassador in reply to AlwaysSmiling

I'll follow up soon, lots to consider. 🤗

youniqueCommunity Ambassador in reply to AlwaysSmiling

Sorry for my late reply I can't believe it's already been ten days! I'm glad you have ongoing support from doctors and health care providers, and a regular treatment plan. That's so important.

For me, I just wonder if more surgery would be worth it. Will I ever be able to attain the level of normalcy or correction that I seek. What if they tell me they can't do anything more for me or worse, what if I'm less satisfied with the results than I am now. Lots to consider..

AlwaysSmilingCommunity Ambassador in reply to younique

Yes, they are all very good points. I have the same thoughts sometimes so I know how hard it can be to come to a decision. Just remember that you will still be you no matter what you decide to do. I wish you the best in making your decision😊

youniqueCommunity Ambassador in reply to AlwaysSmiling

Thank you 🤗

DolaChangingFacesUKAdministrator in reply to younique

hm, quite a few "what ifs" to consider 🤔🤔🤔

I definitely see it as a disability. Just because it doesn't affect your ability to say walk for example, the psychological impact and burden it has is enormous. I to agree that they think of it as a cosmetic issue. Unfortunately doctors have so many patients, they don't have time to sit and talk to you. I have rosacea and absolutely hate it. I am even considering having surgery to cut the nerve that causes blood vessels to expand, that's how much of an impact it is having on me.

youniqueCommunity Ambassador in reply to Cosmicgirl

I understand. I will follow up more later. 🤗

youniqueCommunity Ambassador in reply to Cosmicgirl

As I was saying, I understand your desire to take extreme measures to correct or improve your condition. Please see Dola's reply below regarding disabilities. I agree our lives are negatively impacted by our visible differences to the point that it can affect our ability to function. I believe most people are working to reach our highest potential and I think visible differences impose a limitation that wouldn't be there otherwise. Visible differences don't determine our cognitive ability or ability to get around in life, but the conditions they create can be just as limiting.

If you go the route of surgery please don't be scared. Not that you are, or would be.. But I put off surgery for over 15 years because I was scared and I really wish that I hadn't. We aren't the first people with our conditions and doctors routinely help others in similar situations. So we kind of just have to have faith that even if they don't know us so well they know how to treat what ails us. :)

I dont consider it a disability.... because i can say, 'i have my both arms, my legs, im in health, etc'. so basically i have nothing to complain healthwise. But having a 'facial difference' is tough to live with. Me i struggle to find a girlfriend, because i never dated yet a woman who attracts me , because i feel like they wont be interested in me anyways.

It does affect lives in certain ways. Sometimes we are more isolated, sometimes girls ( or boys ) doesnt find us attractive because of our facial differences.

it certainly has its sadness to it.

But honestly i come from far. I rather take how i look now than how i was after birth. I had a very noticeable birthmark on my cheek and my life was a lot hell because of it.

The woman that will like me will like me just like i am anyways

Cosmicgirl in reply to user533

Hi use553. I hear what your saying as in we can still use our arms and legs etc. I myself am in good health but my face is a disaster which affects my mental health. I have rosacea, which affects the face that leaves me looking like I've got a blotchy permanent sun burn as well as pimples that come with it. My skin is so sensitive that even moisturer blows it up, so I have to walk around bare faced as I have no choice. I don't think I'll ever find love , as let's face it who wants to date a girl who has red blotchy skin. Unfortunately in our society looks are what matters and even though I am a loving, kind and compassionate person all that goes out of the window by the way I look. I'm glad your feeling better these days.


Hi Younique, here's some info on the legal position here in England. Not sure if there are similar laws in other parts of the western world. The Equality Act 2010 sets out when someone is considered to be disabled and protected from discrimination. The definition is quite wide.

It says you’re disabled if:

you have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities

Some impairments are automatically treated as a disability e.g. if you have a severe, long-term disfigurement - for example severe facial scarring or a skin disease

So I guess it depends on individual situations. If people would like to know more here's a useful link

youniqueCommunity Ambassador in reply to DolaChangingFacesUK

Thank you for posting this Dola. I've been reflecting on my life, reframing how I see myself and how I've been treated as a result of my difference and I'm wondering if this can all be attributed to "simply" having a disability. If my visible difference is a disability does that mean I am then a disabled person. Am I now no longer allowed to consider myself or be considered non-disabled. I know the appropriate term is a person living with a disability or the more inclusive term a person who is differently abled.. but I'm curious if a lot of my difficulties in life resulted because I have a disability that wasn't addressed or acknowledged as such. And I wonder how or if my life would have been different if being disabled was a part of my earlier identity.

EllieChangingFacesAdministrator in reply to younique

This is really interesting younique, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

Identification is such a personal thing - what one person finds liberating another will find limiting.

I think it can be freeing to consider it a choice that you alone have the power to make: the choice to frame your experience in a way that makes sense and is helpful to you. It's okay to consider yourself disabled, just as it's okay not to consider yourself disabled. It's okay to be unsure whether that term fits for you, and it's okay to change your mind about it.

You're the expert in your life, your experiences, and what feels right for you.

Looking different shouldn't be a disability. It is only a disability if the people with the visible difference aren't getting the help they need. For example proper counseling/therapy should be made easily accessible and strong support system is crucial.

I know I for one am a perfectly capable individual when all my needs as a human are being met. When I don't have the support/encouragement from others it makes it almost impossible to live a productive life. There is just to much resistance everywhere you go to take on for one person.

I must admit I've spent a large portion of my life acting disabled because I felt cut off from society when all I needed was a little help or encouragement.

It's sad to think of how little support people with visible differences get in society.

Especially considering how much shit they have to go through. Which is mainly a byproduct of lack of awareness and stigma(ie. Hollywood)

AlwaysSmilingCommunity Ambassador in reply to ThurmanMurman

I think that's so true. It's all about the help you receive. With support, most of us are perfectly capable of living a "normal" life however things become very difficult when we feel alone and we don't have the help we need. When you are in a bad place mentally it can be quite debilitating sometimes. It's definitely important to seek help when you need it to avoid this and to continue living your life!

youniqueCommunity Ambassador in reply to ThurmanMurman

Well said ThurmanMurman! This, especially, needs repeating. It seems we all feel this same way, to certain degrees, on CF.

"I know I for one am a perfectly capable individual when all my needs as a human are being met. When I don't have the support/encouragement from others it makes it almost impossible to live a productive life. There is just to much resistance everywhere you go to take on for one person."

I've learned now since I'm older, and less emotional, that most people simply don't understand the experiences of those living with visible differences. I still wonder why my family didn't make sure I got treatment and counseling early in life. But just yesterday I realized.. they were in their twenties when they had me, medical professionals at that time didn't have as many advancements in their field as there are now, the general public knows very little about the (potential) psychological repercussions of living with a visible difference, and finally... to echo your point above.. I developed normally, so there was no indication it could or would cause a problem or disability down the road. It wasn't until I started becoming aware of my own experiences living with a visible difference, that I could appreciate the full depths of what we go through.

So right, visible differences in themselves, those without physical limitations, may not be a disability, but similar to mental/cognitive challenges, our lives are limited as a direct result of our difference. So that's why to me, I believe my difference has been disabling. Also, I don't know about you, but I've had to deal with the type of hate and prejudice that aligns with that of protected classes.

So I think these ideas we share, need to be explored more on a larger scale. Thanks for your reply!

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