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Woman With MS Told To Leave Disabled Train Seat Because She 'Doesn't Look Sick'

When we think of disabilities, often the first image our brains conjure up is a wheelchair. It makes sense — the handicap symbol is a wheelchair, and we’ve been taught to associate the word disability with visible, physical struggles. However, there is far more to disabilities than meets the eye.

Countless individuals live with disabilities that are not immediately obvious.

Unsplash | Matt Artz

From intellectual to autoimmune and beyond, there are dozens of illnesses that affect the ability for someone to function optimally without a struggle.

Amelia Ayres is one of those people.

Amelia, 24, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2014 after she began having severe headaches.

Facebook | Amelia Ayres

She discussed her experience with MS with Metro, explaining how the lifelong autoimmune illness disables her from normal arm and leg movement, vision, balance, and regular sensations of the body.

Along with her diagnosis came medications that ultimately disallowed her to drive.

Unsplash | Matthew Henry

When she turned to public transit as a solution, she began running into issues with her “invisible” illness.

Amelia described the uncomfortable interactions she’s had when using priority seating — including being told to move simply because she didn’t look sick.

Unsplash | Charles 🇵🇭

“I look ‘normal’ and find it incredibly frustrating that nobody can see my symptoms,” she said.

"Nearly every time we go to the supermarket people will look questioningly at me because I look ‘fine’"she explained.

Facebook | Amelia Ayres

"The same happens when I use a disabled toilet with my radar key."

Most recently, Amelia was the victim of disability ignorance once again, when she was asked to move from a disabled seating area for a man with long legs.

Unsplash | Corey Agopian

“In November, I was sat in a disabled seat on a train when a tall man looked at me and said 'I need you to move so I can sit there as I have long legs.'”

"My mum looked at the man and said 'there’s a disabled sign, my daughter has MS and is disabled' and he walked away tutting.”

Facebook | Amelia Ayres

While that man may have feared leg cramps in a smaller space, Amelia’s illness causes significantly more disabling discomfort.

“I’ll be in excruciating pain as if there’s shards of glass digging into my legs," she said.

Unsplash | Manki Kim

I can't imagine how painful so many bus rides have been for so many people with MS.

“After that, I got my MS card out and put it on the table in case anyone else questioned my right to sit there. I was so angry,” she said.

Twitter | @mssocietyNI

Unfortunately for Amelia, her MS affects her life far beyond the use of priority seating.

"MS can trick me into thinking I feel OK. I’ll start walking and after only 10 minutes I get a horrendous pain in my legs.”

Facebook | Amelia Ayres

“My calves feel so heavy, like tree trunks, and I feel like I’m in quicksand,” she explained.

But Amelia isn't done speaking up for herself and others suffering with MS.

Unsplash | Christin Hume

She has set up a Facebook group called MS UK to provide a community of support for those who live with MS at any capacity.

The FB page describes itself as a "Support Group for people living with Multiple Sclerosis, caring for someone with MS, awaiting for a diagnosis or have family members with the condition, in the UK & Ireland."

Facebook | MS UK

With over 3,000 members, the group seems to be serving its purpose.

"It's helped so much because it's so nice to be able to, at any time of the day or night, to be able to look at my phone and think all these people are here to be able to talk to, that all actually get it."

Unsplash | Burst

Groups like this prove how important community is, which is why it's so amazing Amelia started something like this.

Amelia also sat down with the BBC in an effort to raise awareness about MS, as well as other invisible illnesses.

Facebook | Amelia Ayers

You can watch the full interview here. Keep up the inspirational work, Amelia!