June 23, 2015
Joyce Bender is an individual who has a hidden disability and has formed the Bender Consulting Services. She advocates for all people with disabilities and she discusses her own struggles with being epileptic. Below is some information behind her journey to becoming the CEO and how she personally views hidden disabilities.
By Joyce Bender
President and CEO of Bender Consulting Services.
Image of Joyce BenderI have a great way to quiet a room – start talking about my epilepsy to a group of strangers. There is always a look of surprise and shock when they discover that I am a person with epilepsy. I can read the “balloon” above the heads of those who suddenly look like “deer in the headlights”. In cartoons, the “balloon” above the characters tell us what they are really thinking. I know the words in their “balloon” include; “I thought you were fine” or “I never knew she had this terrible problem” or “Oh, no, epilepsy, I do not want to talk to you about it.”
Most people with hidden disabilities do not discuss their disabilities in the workplace or with friends, due to the stigma attached. I know many people with epilepsy, depression, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis who do not disclose their disability to anyone at work, due to fear of discrimination; they also do not tell any of their friends. I will use epilepsy as the example for all people with hidden disabilities, as we all face the barrier of stigma.
In the United States today, approximately 3 million Americans are people with epilepsy and many people do not disclose it. The reason they do not disclose is their fear of being treated differently. With epilepsy comes this automatic fear of reprisal not only in the workplace, but also in the family and in relationships. People with other hidden disabilities face the same trauma associated with stigma.
Continue reading about the stigma with hidden disabilities here.