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Healthy Balance

Chronic Illness & Disability

this dad in a wheelchair has a disabilityIf you don’t have a disability or chronic illness yourself, you probably know someone who does. More than 60% of U.S. adults have a chronic illness and more than 25% have a disability.

What Exactly IS a Disability?

A disability is a condition of the mind or body that makes it harder to do certain activities or interact with the world around you. A chronic illness lasts 1 year or more and needs ongoing medical care or limits daily activities.

The kinds of disabilities and chronic illnesses vary — from autism to hearing loss to cancer. Types of brain injury, mental health issues, and learning disabilities also count.

Visible & Invisible Conditions

Some are visible, like your friend with cystic fibrosis who uses an oxygen tank or your neighbor who uses a wheelchair.

But you don’t always know if someone has a disability or chronic illness. Maybe your aunt doesn’t walk with a cane, but she uses a handicap parking pass because arthritis makes it painful to walk long distances. Or your coworker might have chronic migraines.

Layers of Challenges

Whether visible or invisible, these conditions can make life hard. They can strain your relationships, drain your energy, and add stress to your job.

In addition, people with chronic illness and disability have historically faced severe social stigma and discrimination. While we’ve made a lot of progress, many still face physical and other barriers.

Learning from People With Chronic Illness & Disability

Still, people with chronic illnesses and disabilities can and do thrive. They offer diverse points of view and unique strengths.

At UVA Health, we believe an inclusive environment helps everyone. Listening is an important first step toward inclusion. It helps us understand people’s unique gifts and needs — how they can help us and how we can help them.

Here we share stories from individuals living with disabilities and chronic illnesses.

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