What Is HMD?

Hidden mobility disability (HMD) means being able to walk independently but only for a short distance and being able to stand unsupported but only for a brief time, without serious health consequences. Also known as limited mobility.

HMDA research has verified that 13% of the adult population struggles with limited mobility. However, mobility accessibility standards address only the access barriers faced by the 1% who use wheeled mobility devices and overlook the access barrier of distance to be walked.

Those of us with a hidden mobility disability may accept the myth that we just need to exercise more or “push through” when we find it increasingly painful to walk very far or to stand unsupported. We may be slow to realize that we have an actual disability and that we are part of a group that has been invisible up to now.

“I thought it was just my problem.”

In fact we may have our own internalized biases to examine. When confronted with persons who cannot walk at all, it is easy to feel guilty about asking for help when one can walk a bit. We often find ourselves in situations where we are being expected or pressured to walk further than we comfortably can, or to stand too long. It takes courage to say to an able-bodied person, “No, I won’t.”

While our limitation is mobility, our issues are different than those with visible mobility disabilities who use wheelchairs or scooter. Their focus is maneuverability. Our barriers are:

  • Distance to be walked:            15 m is ok; 30 m is too far.
  • Time standing unaided:            1-2 min. is ok; 5 min. is too long.

See our Fact Sheet on Limited Mobility for more specifics about what we know about the lived experience of those with limited mobility and our Attitudes Regarding Limited Mobility for a listing of attitudes we may have internalized.