Excel as a High-Performing Agency

Ability at Work – Count Me In!

Graphic: A tree with a trunk made out of a hand, leaves made out of multicolor hands

The Invisibility of disAbility

A primary goal of the FY 2020 Ability at Work-Count Me In! campaign is inspiring a “Count Me In!”  spirit among as many leaders, supervisors, managers and employees as possible over the course of FY 2020.  The campaign aims to overcome the “invisibility of disability” barrier that yearly prevents members of the Forest Service from “seeing”, visually or statistically, and fully respecting what true presence, “Ability at Work”, and value colleagues with “disabilities” are contributing to our workforce and mission across pay grades and career fields. A first step is understanding how truly “invisible” disability is, and how we can change this picture to one that gains us a much truer, inspiring, and empowering vision of our “Ability at Work.”

Weekly, the campaign will highlight one of four new Awareness videos featuring individuals with visible and invisible disabilities telling their stories. This week, meet Ericka! Our thanks to the many folks at ASC, Southwestern Regional Office, and the Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District, with and without disabilities, on and off camera, that enabled the filming of these videos to happen. 


Visual Invisibility- About 70-80% of disabilities are either visibly invisible, or not obvious
Only about 17% of those with disabilities will use some type of visible assistive device such as a wheelchair, cane or crutches. Close to 50% of people in the US have some type of chronic physical or mental health condition. While 96% of people with chronic medical conditions live with an illness that is invisible. Sample invisible physical and mental health are described below. 

Statistical Invisibility- The disability data we report is only 25% -50% of the true picture
Less than 9% of us have reported any disability status on record; only 7% (about 2,500) have reported a specific disability. According to Dept of Labor data, more like 20% of us (over 7,700) could be reporting a disability. The more of the likely 5,000+ of us yet uncounted willing to say “Count Me In!,” the more statistical revelations we offer to raise awareness and respect for how we are succeeding across pay grades and career fields, squelch stigmatization, and further inspire and empower those with similar disabilities to pursue and open new doors to employment and advancement. Seeing statistically how much more “inclusion” of diverse disabilities is happening across career fields and pay grades can also embolden employees to more openly acknowledge disabilities and symptoms they have been avoiding, engage with colleagues to address barriers and seek reasonable accommodation or other help with coping issues, when needed. 

Invisible Disabilities- A sampling
Invisible Physical Health Conditions: Many with visual or auditory medical conditions may not wear hearing aids or eye glasses and so may not seem to have any such condition.  We mostly can’t see who, among us, daily deals with chronic pain or sleep disorders as a result of back problems, bone disease, injury, joint conditions, chronic illnesses such as diabetes or renal failure, birth disorders or other physical or neurological conditions.  Up to 26 million Americans, for example, are estimated to suffer from the hidden condition of “Fibromyalgia”- the most common causes of chronic musculoskeletal pain.  Other examples include heart conditions, chronic fatigue, chronic dizziness, and seizure disorders. Yearly about 1.5 million Americans sustain a Traumatic Brain Injury.

Invisible Mental/Cognitive Health Conditions: People with psychiatric disabilities make up a large segment of the invisibly disabled population.  Examples include:

  • One in five adults will experience a mental health/illness condition
  • One in ten employees at any one will be experiencing a mental health/illness condition
  • 8+ million Americans between the age of 18 and older have experienced PTSD; 3.6% of the US Adult population have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder in the past year
  • 18% of population experience a form of Anxiety disorder each year
  • 6.9 percent of all U.S. adults experienced a major depressive episode in a given year
  • 4% of adults may have ADHD
  • 2-3% of Adults may have learning disabilities

Additional information & resources