Invisible Disabilities Awareness
INTERACTIVE WORKSHOPS / WEBINARS / corporate trainingS / KEYNOTE SPEECHES
Modern America does rather well in accommodating people with disabilities through legislation, building codes, and a culture of increasing acceptance and empathy. But anyone who has a disability, or who has a loved one with a disability, knows we still have a long way to go. Included in our shortcomings is how we treat a whole category of disabilities that we literally can’t see.
Disabilities that aren’t immediately recognizable by others are called “invisible illnesses” or “hidden disabilities.“ They are ongoing conditions such as ulcerative colitis, depression, and dyslexia. They are shockingly common, and not only do they place substantial limitations on what a person can do, but they also often come with cruel stigma, inducing what Christina calls “illness shaming.“
Hidden disabilities are conditions that include cognitive difficulties, mental health disorders, learning differences, physical pain, fatigue, or other physical conditions that are not apparent to the onlooker but significantly impact one’s daily activities.
In her presentations, disability speaker Christina Irene rips the shroud around invisible disabilities wide open through education and story. She mixes her sharp humor with bold facts in revealing her own struggles and successes and sharing touching anecdotes about her friends with physical and mental health disabilities. Her interactive presentations are engrossing, eye-opening and fun experiences that inspires sensitivity, companionship, and a huge jolt of hope for anyone impacted by a hidden disability.
Program 1: Introduction to Invisible Disabilities
duration: 60 or 90 MINUTES
Christina’s flagship program is designed for an audience of people with and without disabilities. The program combines topic education with actionable techniques and includes a hilarious game show and an inspiring message.
Program 1 Learning Outcomes:
- Define invisible disabilities and cite examples
- Intimately understand the lives and successes of people living with disabilities
- Understand the “non-symptom” struggles of disabilities, e.g. medical coverage, medications
- Identify and counteract the 3 common stigmas affecting people with invisible disabilities
- Master “people first” language
- Learn 6 actionable ways to be a better ally
- Discover 5 coping skills universal to disabilities and common difficulties
Above: Students participate in a game during a training at new student orientation. Left: Promo for globally broadcast in North America, Europe, and Africa.
Program 2: Communicating About Invisible Disabilities
duration: 1 hour
Christina’s second program is an ideal follow-up for audiences who have already attended her Introduction to Invisible Disabilities Awareness. It can likewise work well for first-time audiences or combined with the Introduction program for a longer event. This program focuses on how to communicate about hidden disabilities and mental health conditions and again, it’s appropriate for people with or without disabilities and is presented in Christina’s signature “light approach to a heavy topic.”
Video: Christina and Program 2 are introduced to a university faculty audience.
Program 2 Learning Outcomes:
- Define invisible disabilities
- Recognize the 5 stages of diagnosis
- Understand how grieving applies to chronic physical and mental illnesses
- Know the 5 ways the “moving target” of chronic illness affects daily life
- Embody the 5 reasons people with disabilities must communicate about our conditions
- Implement Christina’s proprietary Splat System of daily communication
- Master the reasons, methods, and cautions of communicating our daily conditions to ourselves
- Internalize the dos and don’ts of helping people with chronic illnesses
- Follow scripts to sensitively offer assistance to people with disabilities
Program 3: Inclusion and Universal Design
duration: 1 hour
Christina’s newest program is inspired by frequently asked questions and special requests that have come up during her staff trainings, higher education faculty workshops, and conversations with student leaders. Attendees need not have attended Program 1 or Program 2. Invisible disabilities are a focus, but mobility impairments and visible disabilities are also covered, and inclusion considerations as they relate to cultural background, language, gender, the LGBTQ community, and intersectionality are touched upon.
Program 3 Learning Outcomes:
- Define universal design
- Empathically experience unique stories of people with disabilities and difficulties faced in public spaces
- Understand that universal design and inclusion extend well beyond just “barrier free”
- Apply universal design concepts to spaces, communication, and social events
- Implement tactics to get students, employees, and oneself to self-identify disabilities and collaborate on inclusion
- Use the Splat System to establish customized, sliding-scale expectations in classroom or work environments
Special Program: Invisible Disabilities Craft Event
duration: 1 hour
This diversity-themed novelty event includes teaching from Christina’s invisible disabilities programs combined with the fun of creating customized bracelets and other items used to implement her proprietary Splat System. Participants will use their items to establish manageable routines in work, studies, and self-care. They will also become better advocates with improved interpersonal communication and fostering community awareness.
“The best overview of invisible disabilities I’ve ever seen. Everyone should hear her speak, to help advocate change and also help themselves.”
—Deeya Bhattacharya, PR Chair, Advocates for Disabilites Awareness, Johns Hopkins University
“Loved the self-care craft workshop. Such an awesome way to encourage individuals with invisible disabilities to communicate their current wellness status.”
—Gabriella Vasta, Coordinator of Access and Equity Services, SUNY Delhi
“Christina was a wonderful presenter! She is authentic, effusive, genuine and compassionate. She does an excellent job reaching out to students. I would have her back to present anytime!”
—Katherine Ramrill-Teece, Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, Onondaga Community College
“Christina Irene instantly engaged our students and kept them interested the whole time. Can’t wait to have her return!”
–Wendi Richards, Assistant Director of Educational Support Services, SUNY Cobleskill
—Rebecca Holland, Program Manager, Jemez Vocational Rehabilitation Program, Pueblo of Jemez, a sovereign nation in NM
“I attended your webinar at Ceridian today about invisible disabilities. My sister has physical and mental challenges, and I was hoping to learn how to be better with how I treat people. You are an outstanding speaker, and I really enjoyed your talk! I actually recognized that I have issues I now defined as invisible disabilities (chronic conditions) and I feel so much better about my situation and how to address my own issues!
—Robin, corporate webinar attendee
“I loved this presentation! Appreciated the personal aspect and the tips at the end.”
–Madelynn Wellons, President, Advocates for Disabilities Awareness, Johns Hopkins University
“What an eye opener! We never notice the little things we can do to make our students feel more welcome. Christina has made it evident how to do that!”
—Evan, Internal Affairs Chair, Student Programming Board, Le Moyne College
“Christina is amazing and is incredibly knowledgeable with invisible disabilities. She is truly a spectacular individual with a passion for others.”
–Devlin, Union College
“Wonderful facilitator! Very engaging! Kept my interest and broadened my thinking!”
—Jane, 68, Oneonta, NY
“Thank you so much for bringing more awareness to invisible disabilities that so many of us deal with on a daily basis. Stay strong and keep spreading the word!”
–Rick, corporate webinar attendee
“I loved the discussion of stigma and how invisible disabilities are often perceived. I think that the audience at JHU really needed it, especially the pre-meds.”
–Bella Rodant, Treasurer, Advocates for Disabilities Awareness, Johns Hopkins University
“It was very inspirational seeing the personal stories. I think everyone should see this presentation so they can be more aware of what others go through.”
—Samantha, 28, Syracuse, NY
—Johanna, 31, Potsdam, NY
“A well-rounded perspective on the many invisible disabilities that we are dealing with first-had or relationally, day-to-day.”
—Whitney, Jamestown Community College
“The presentation was awesome. It was inspirational, emotional.”
—Agatha, 26, Houston, TX
“Thank you for speaking out for those who can not find the words. We need more people like you in the world!”
—Claire, 25, Tampica, IL
“Amazing session about ID. Opened my eyes to how many people have ID and the need to end the stigma.”
—Cayla, Student Government Association Treasurer, SUNY Jefferson
“Inspirational! I learned quite a bit more about things I thought I already knew.”
—Laura, The College of Saint Rose
“A great, personalized presentation that invites the audience into a realm which they may be unfamiliar.”
—Joe, Campus Activities Leader, King’s College
“You shine a light on a cloudy subject.”
—Reagan, 23, Syracuse, NY
“Great insight. This presentation touched all types of ID and kept it light. This is a serious subject, but putting it in a light emotional way made it comfortable.”
—Taylor, Campus Activities Board Secretary, Jefferson Community College
“This presentation will open your eyes, your mind, your being, to make you a better, kinder human being.”
—Tom, 67, Orange, NJ
“Extremely inspiring and motivational. I appreciate your presence.”
Fabrianna, Jamestown Community College
“You are awesome!”
—Maria Mercado, Disabilities Coordinator, Essex County College, NJ
Christina Irene lives with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. Since 2015, she has made it her purpose to be an advocate and a teacher for people with invisible illnesses and impairments. She is the author of TalkingSplat: Communicating About Our Hidden Disabilities and Splatvocate: Supporting People With Hidden Disabilities.
She brings her past lives to all her programs: not just the memory of life without disability, but experiences working with diverse groups of people. She began touring as stand-up comedian in 2000, with nearly 700 shows in 33 states. She taught high school English, creative writing, journalism, theatre, and algebra, in addition to conducting comedy and theatre workshops. She’s traveled to 21 countries, all 50 states, lived in four states, and has done an eclectic variety of jobs from tobacco farmer to carnival barker to ad writer.
In 2014 was the onset of Christina’s fibromyalgia, which took over a year to be diagnosed. It has necessitated lifestyle changes and a difficult and ongoing coping process. But, she has continued to thrive in both career and community. While not letting up in her adventures around the world, she maintains her business, helps with charity events, is elected to her town council, serves as chairperson of her town’s municipal authority, and also serves on the planning commission.
All her life, Christina’s passion has been for people to be able to just be themselves – with confidence and a path clear of bullying, discrimination, or obstacles. Now, as she struggles to just be her own self despite debilitating conditions, she is more emboldened than ever to spread her message.
Bring an Inspiring Awareness-Action-Advocacy Program to Your Company, School, or Community
For availability and pricing, simply click here to contact Christina.
11×17 posters (click image for downloadable PDF file)