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Disability Advocate and Author Discusses Hidden Disabilities

Sejal Shaw
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Disability Advocate and Author Discusses Hidden Disabilities

UNC Charlotte’s Department of Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Studies and 
J. Murrey Atkins Library will host disability advocate and author Sejal Shah for a presentation entitled, “Performing Health, Unmasking Pain: Wellness, Illness, and Diversity in the Workplace,” on Wednesday, February 12 from 12:30 - 2:00 p.m. in the library’s Halton Reading room. The event is supported by the 2019-2020 Chancellor’s Diversity Challenge Fund.

In her talk, Shah will explore and reflect on how employee experiences of chronic and hidden illnesses complicate and challenge familiar narratives of wellness, equity, and diversity within the workplace. She has recently presented on this topic at Princeton University and Sweet Briar College. 

Shah argues that no one is permanently “abled.” In fact, most of us experience moderate to severe forms of disability at some point in our lives. Some disabilities are episodic; others are chronic. Many are unseen, yet debilitating. Though disability impacts all, those with invisible yet chronic conditions are less understood and frequently poorly supported within their own homes, communities, and at work. 

In the workplace, people with hidden disabilities are less likely to ask for help and seldom self-advocate; instead, they frequently choose to pass as healthy and able-bodied. Those with invisible conditions and illnesses are also more likely to be the victims of microaggressions, bullying, and a hostile work environment. In particular, LGBTQ, people of color, women, and other minorities with hidden disabilities are at a higher risk of workplace discrimination. 

The February 12 event is the result of a collaboration between Debarati Dutta, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies, and Kim Looby, Instruction & Information Literacy Librarian at Atkins Library. This speaker event is the first phase of Chronic Yet Unseen: Making Hidden Disability Visible, a disability awareness & advocacy project that aims to:

  • raise campus awareness about employees with chronic but invisible conditions and illnesses, 
  • solicit and archive the personal stories of employees with invisible conditions and chronic illnesses, and 
  • develop online resources to support staff and faculty with an invisible and chronic illness. 

This is a free event and all students, faculty, and staff are welcome. Light refreshments will be served. 

To attend, please RSVP before 5:00 pm on Tuesday, February 4.