Sarah Packwood is doing well in her studies thanks to her dedication and hard work and the support of VIU’s Disability Services

Vancouver Island University highlights invisible disabilities

NANAIMO – Event brings non-profits together to help people with challenges.

By Dane Gibson

Vancouver Island University’s Disability Services wants students, faculty, staff and the general public to know that there are disabilities they can’t see.

The 5th Annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities takes place on Thursday (Dec. 1) at the Nanaimo campus. The theme this year’s event is Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want and at VIU they will be highlighting ‘invisible disabilities.’

Sarah Packwood is a VIU Creative Writing student who has an invisible disability – fibromyalgia, which is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory, mood, and various other issues.

“School is stressful for everyone. Whether you’re sick or not. Adding on a chronic illness adds another level of stress and makes it hard to keep up with school and your peers,” said Packwood. “By bringing awareness through International Day of Persons with Disabilities the word gets out that students like me exist. I support the event because proactive outreach sends the message we deserve dignity and respect and deserve to be treated fairly whether in an education or work environment.”

People with an invisible disability, such as fibromyalgia, autism, traumatic brain injury or cystic fibrosis, are able to go to school or work full time but struggle to get through their day. VIU’s Disability Services provides support and program initiatives designed to remove barriers for the more than 800 VIU students who have a disability. Community outreach is an important part of that work which is why celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities is so important.

Disability Services Access Specialist Denise Hook says 25 non-profit groups are coming to the event to promote their services, raise awareness and inform the public about what they do. Attendees include Nanaimo Food Share, Nanaimo Brain Injury Society, Special Olympics of BC and Nanaimo Mental Health and Addiction Services to name just a few.

“I love the education that this event brings to our campus community. The feedback I’ve gotten from previous participating organizations is it’s an event that represents an incredible opportunity to network and let everyone know what’s available in Nanaimo and the surrounding area,” said Hook. “Community members who attend tell me that they had no idea what services were available out there or how to find them so it’s very valuable that way.”

Everyone is invited to International Day of Persons with Disabilities from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the upper cafeteria. A showing of the movie, Touch of the Light, begins at 7 p.m. in building 356, room 109.

Dane Gibson is a writer with VIU’s communications department.

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