Unseen Struggles: Invisible Disabilities Awareness
BREAKOUT SESSION / KEYNOTE SPEECH
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 “invisible disabilities.” They are chronic, severe health conditions such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, clinical depression, and celiac disease, to name a few. They are shockingly common, and not only do they place substantial limitations on what a person can do, but they also come with cruel stigma, which Christina refers to as “illness shaming.”
Invisible 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 this presentation, Christina 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 shares touching anecdotes about her friends with lupus, fibromyalgia, depression and a special set of superpowers. Her presentation is an engrossing and eye-opening experience that inspires sensitivity, companionship, and a huge jolt of hope for anyone impacted by an unseen disability.
- Define invisible disabilities and cite examples
- Identify the 3 common stigmas affecting people with invisible disabilities
- List ways we are each personally impacted by invisible disabilities
- Recognize personal “disabilities” as a means for empathy and camaraderie
- Design a plan to increase inclusion for all people with disabilities
- Take one step to implement community support for people with invisible disabilities
“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
“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
“The presentation was awesome. It was inspirational, emotional.”
—Agatha, 26, Houston, TX
“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
“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
Christina Irene 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 14 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, she began to suffer from fibromyalgia, which took over a year for her rheumatologist to diagnose. It has necessitated lifestyle changes and a difficult and ongoing coping process. But, Christina has continued to thrive in both career and community. While not letting up in her adventures around the world, she is building a business, helps with charity events, and serves on her community’s Education Coalition, Planning Commission, and Authority as vice chairperson.
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 a debilitating illness, she is more emboldened than ever to spread her message.
Bring Invisible Disability Awareness to Your Campus or Group
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