3.2. Why Understanding Disability Matters
Due to advances in military medicine and protective equipment, increased numbers of today's servicemembers are surviving the injuries they sustain on the battlefield. However, the changing combat landscape has created a shift in the type and range of injuries experienced.
Though the injuries and subsequent disabilities experienced by servicemembers of any era include those that are visible to others, such as limb/multiple limb loss or severe burns, many are not. Some of the other common injuries associated with military service include a number of those that cannot be seen or easily recognized by someone else, such as back injuries, hearing loss, post-traumatic stress disorder, and mild traumatic brain injury, to name a few. These "unseen" injuries/disabilities are no less significant than those disabilities that are visible. In fact, it is the non-visible injuries that can often cause more confusion and distress to servicemembers, because they are not as easily understood.
- If others can't "see" your injury or disability, they are less likely to know what you might need to be successful. Disclosure is an important aspect of understanding disability and will be addressed at different points in this Knowledge Book. For example, if you are a wheelchair user, it should be obvious that you will need access to the building (ramp) and to an office or classroom that might be on the third floor (elevator). If you have acquired a learning disability or a traumatic brain injury, your needs will likely not be obvious to those around you and it will be up to you to let them know how you learn best and what you need to be successful.
It is important for you to take the time to fully understand how your particular disability impacts you especially if you are considering a return to school or work. After all, you were not born with this disability. Part of your recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration into the workforce or an academic setting will be understanding your disability, how it impacts you, and what functional limitations you might experience.