According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 56.7 million people — or 18.7 percent of the civilian non-institutionalized population — had a disability in 2010. “Perhaps as many as half of them have disabilities that are not readily evident to the casual observer. There’s a huge population of people with hidden or invisible disabilities,” says Lex Frieden, who was instrumental in conceiving and drafting the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.
A professor of biomedical informatics and physical medicine and rehabilitation at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)School of Biomedical Informatics, Frieden recently completed a term as a member of the United Nations Panel of Experts on the Standard Rules of Disability.
“People get angry when they see other people get out of their cars in restricted parking places and they don’t appear to have disabilities,” Frieden says. “But you might be surprised at what types of disabilities are very serious that cause people to be restricted in terms of their mobility.”