Answering this question literally, there are many invisible differences that each of us have... differences that make it more challenging to get by in the world we live in, differences that make us feel like we don't belong, differences that create challenges to overcome, differences that build strengths we might not have otherwise found within ourselves. I suspect that every single one of us can think of a time we felt like we didn't belong because of some way in which we were different. I will share a personal example. Over four decades ago, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, a chronic autoimmune condition where the pancreas fails to produce insulin, the hormone the body uses to allow sugar to enter cells and produce energy. As a young person, unless I was observed injecting insulin from a syringe or caught in a dangerous shaky low with cloudy thoughts, it wasn't obvious that I had a disability.
From the American Diabetes Association: Specifically, federal laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, protect qualified individuals with a disability. Since 2009, amendments and regulations for these laws make clear that diabetes is a disability since it substantially limits the function of the endocrine system. This internal limitation is enough—no outside limitation is necessary. This means diabetes can be an "invisible" disability.)
As a mindful adult with an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring, my diabetes control is relatively good, but never perfect because of all the variables and the interaction of the variables that exist in our environment, in our bodies, in the foods we eat, and in our levels of activity. Control of my diabetes is omnipresent in almost every waking thought and in so many of the decisions I make each day. Because of my diabetes, I have learned to be less of a perfectionist, to have compassion for myself and others, and to find grace in a world that presents challenges. Type 1 diabetes is not the only invisible difference that creates diversity in our world. Dyslexia, ADHD, Celiac Disease, depression, and anxiety, and so many other challenging differences are invisible. So, when it comes to diversity, to truly be inclusive of difference, we all need to strive to widen our vision.
Barbie Fink, CCXP, Immediate Past Chair, CXPA Board of Directors and Diversity Advancement Committee Member