The number one question people ask of our organization, the Invisible Disabilities Association is “What is an invisible disability?” The term invisible disabilities refers to the invisible symptoms such as debilitating pain, fatigue, dizziness, cognitive dysfunctions, brain injuries, learning differences and mental health disorders, as well as hearing and vision impairments. These are not always obvious to the onlooker, but are very real to the person living with them as they may impact daily activities and range from mild challenges to severe limitations and vary from person to person.
Someone who has a visible impairment or uses an assistive device such as a wheelchair, walker or cane can also have invisible disabilities. A wheelchair or hearing aids do not necessarily limit a person’s ability to participate in life’s activities. What if they have chronic pain or PTSD or brain fog or other invisible symptoms? These invisible symptoms can create a great strain on their daily ability and functionality.
Unfortunately, people often judge others by what they see and often conclude a person can or cannot do something by the way they look. This can be equally frustrating for those who may appear unable, but are perfectly capable, as well as those who appear able, but are not.
International disability expert Joni Eareckson Tada explained it well when she told someone living with debilitating fatigue, “People have such high expectations of folks like you [with invisible disabilities], like, ‘come on, get your act together.’ but they have such low expectations of folks like me in wheelchairs, as though it’s expected that we can’t do much.”
Illness affects us all. Even those with fortune and fame have to deal with the impact of pain and fatigue and brain fog. Money isn’t the answer to being able to live daily with the sometime devastating impact of disability or illness, being a friend and caring and believing makes the difference.
I think about celebrities in all of their glory and, truly, they are just like the rest of us when it comes to managing and surviving the impact of their illnesses and pain. The following is just a small list of them:
In order to bring attention to the vastness of the impact of invisible disabilities, our organization will host an annual awards gala in Denver on October 23, 2015. This year’s theme is “Hearing is Believing.” Because “seeing is not necessarily believing,” especially if the illness and pain are invisible. Listening and validating and caring make a huge difference and are accomplished by truly hearing what a person lives with daily.
In addition to the Gala, we are hosting our inaugural Brain IDEAS Symposium on October 23. The theme is “It’s All in Your Head.” Its cutting-edge science will be dynamically revealed and accessible to everyone. We will be looking at different brain disorders, brain health and brain therapy including mental illness, autism, Alzheimer’s, nutrition, mental training, humor, stroke, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Of course, many are unable to travel and participate in our events in Denver and therefore we have created the Invisible Disabilities Week, October 18 through 24, 2015 for the second year in a row. Invisible Disabilities Week is seven days of online events everyone can participate in no matter where you live around the country or the globe. You will have the opportunity to share your story and proudly wear blue for Invisible Disabilities. Below are the following events each day. Check out InvisibleDisabilitiesWeek.org for the latest details. We will be using #InvisibleDisabilitiesWeek on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Join in the awareness and fun. The bottom line is that everyone with a disability is different, with varying challenges and needs, as well as abilities and attributes. Thus, we all should learn to listen with our ears, instead of judging with our eyes. Let’s envision a world where people living with illness, pain and disability will be Invisible No More! See you in Denver on October 23 for the Awards Gala and Brain IDEAS Symposium and online October 18 through 24 for Invisible Disabilities Week!
About the Guest Blogger
Wayne Connell, the founder and president of the Invisible Disabilities® Association, established IDA in 1996 out of the desire to educate friends and family about his wife’s debilitating illness. Soon afterwards, people around the globe began sending emails sharing how IDA had changed their relationships with their loved ones. He is co-author of the book, “But You LOOK Good, How to Encourage and Understand People Living with Illness and Pain.” Wayne’s background fueled his passion for helping people living with illness, pain and disability. His experience includes that of a professional, multitasking husband caregiver with an extensive background in management, media and technology. This man on a mission quickly launched IDA into a world-wide outreach for millions living with invisible disabilities.
Make sure you check out IDA’s website for additional resources and stories at www.InvisibleDisabilities.org. Share your personal video story with us at www.InvisibleNoMore.tv. You can also be part of other people’s stories by joining them at www.Facebook.com/invisibledisabilities or becoming a member of InvisibleDisabilities.Inspire.com. Invisible Disabilities Week is October 18 through 24, 2015. Join IDA at our inaugural Brain IDEAS Symposium on October 23 as well as at our 8th Annual Awards Gala, “Hearing is Believing,” also on October 23.