Great Britain’s Paralympic Gold Medalist Kadeena Cox says living with hidden disabilities can feel like “fighting a losing battle” because of people’s negative reactions.
As new research shows, 83% of people with reduced visibility experience a lack of understanding and negative attitudes when entering public spaces.
Cox has multiple sclerosis, which affects the brain and nerves.
He says people have accused him of “faking” his disability.
“As a person living with MS, I tell people I shouldn’t park in a blue plate spot,” Cox said.
“I get people who don’t want to give up their priority seat on the train or bus.
“I get people on social media saying ‘Kadeena Cox can’t be disabled, I don’t believe it’ or I say you’re lying to people and taking money from the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions).
“People and their ignorant or uneducated are the ones making the comments and judging.”
Cox was speaking following new research by Bupa, GB Paralympics’ new official health partner, and disability equality charity Scope, into the experiences of people with disabilities, impairments and conditions.
Of the 382 disabled people surveyed:
- About 70% of people were questioned about the disability or the nature of the disability while traveling, shopping or at an event.
- 76% have had sensitive comments about their disability
- 68% were told “you don’t look disabled”
Cox won gold in cycling and athletics at the Rio 2016 Paralympics before retaining the C4-5 500m time trial title with a stunning world record in Tokyo.
The 31-year-old added: ‘I’m always dancing on social media, I’ll be in and out of my wheelchair doing wheelchair dances to show that illnesses are not what you think.
“I’ll be making videos when I post all the things I deal with that you don’t see: brain fog, bladder issues, pain, sensory issues, lack of feeling in my feet.”
Cox suffered a stroke in 2014 and was subsequently diagnosed with MS. He has also spoken publicly about his struggles with what he describes “disordered eating”.
She added: “I struggle with an eating disorder which I’ve spoken about openly, so it’s a challenge. It really makes you question your life at times.
“Now that I have this disability, my mental health is struggling because people comment on my disability and you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle.
“There are days when I’m like, ‘Why am I fighting?’ But the reality is that I’m fighting for all the people who are in this position and feel like there’s nothing to fight for.”
If you or someone you know has experienced a mental health problem, help and support is available at bbc.co.uk/actionline