Is a chronic illness a disability?

by | Jun 3, 2021 | blog, mindset

I am honoured to join other women from Atlantic Canada on an upcoming panel (Women with Disabilities Leading the Way in Entrepreneurship) which is part of the Atlantic Women’s Business Series happening on Wednesday, June 9th.

Gotta say though, I had to get up to speed with the idea.

My excitement at being asked to represent PEI was immediately followed by a deluge of imposter syndrome thoughts – Am I really disabled enough to talk about my experiences on a panel? Is a chronic illness a disability? Hearing loss definitely is, right? Do I have the ‘right’ to speak about this when my hearing loss isn’t visible and is not as hard as what others experience?

My google search revealed that there is no consensus about whether or not a chronic illness is a disability.

My thoughts are still fairly jumbled, but I do know this:

Meniere’s Disease and the resulting hearing loss often prevent me from working, performing normal daily tasks, and socializing (one of the definitions of a disability), albeit not all the time.

It has impacted my life to the degree that I’m writing a book about my experiences – how I’ve grown my business and figured out how to improve my quality of life, by embracing the fullness of who I am and not pushing against it.

Here’s the thing though: I didn’t realize that I had a disability until my dear friend and Executive Director of the PEI Council of People with Disabilities Marcia Carroll told me so when I was doing some work with them. It never occurred to me that needing a hearing aid bumped me into this camp.

My experiences are very different because I wasn’t born with it and because it isn’t visible. As a result, this a label I get to consider, mull over, and embrace on my own time, not one that is thrust upon me.

I am so aware of my privileges, hence my wobble with being on this panel. Despite my privileges, I do live with this unpleasant actor in my life. My hope with writing my book and talking about what I once considered something too private to share is that other people apply the strategies.

I look forward to learning from the other panelists. I hope that you’ll join us for what will be an interesting conversation and that my thoughts will unjumble over the coming days!

SRL