About Chris and Disability Awareness
How Disability Awareness Got Started
Disability Awareness was started in 2015 after I co-wrote a book about life with Cerebral Palsy. After the final draft of it was completed, I felt that I had more to say, so I started a YouTube channel talking about disability issues and began speaking to audiences to raise awareness about life with disability and inspire others to reach their own goals.
So, what have I done with my life? The short answer is, a lot!
This episode of Triumph, from the Catholic entertainment network Shalom World, tells the story of my life through the lens of my faith, which I believe has enabled me to overcome my Cerebral Palsy and achieve what the world deemed impossible.
I hope you find my story inspiring.
Birth and Diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy
My name is Chris Lenart and I was born on June 7, 1969. When I was delivered, I was not breathing and my mom was bleeding pretty bad. On top of all that, there was only one doctor in the delivery room, so he had to work on both of us because we could die. Thankfully, we both survived.
When the doctor told my dad that he had a son, he also said that I had 50:50 chance of living. During the next few months, my cousin, who is three weeks younger than me, started to crawl and did other things that I could not do. So my parents took me to the doctor and they were told that I had Cerebral Palsy and they should just take me home and love me.
Besides all of this, my parents took me to therapy at DuPage Easter Seals and worked with me so I could have a good life like any other kid would have. I started going to school when I was three years old. The education that I received was what I would call babysitting because they didn’t actually teach us much. Besides that, I rode a bus an hour each way.
My mom fought for my education for several years and she finally got me into a better school program.
When I was placed in the better program, I was already two grades behind for my age. As the years went by, I was being mainstreamed for more and more classes.
When I got to high school, I was mainstreamed for all of my classes and was on the honor roll all four years. I was in the Honor Society when I graduated.
I went on to college to the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and I had personal care assistants who helped me with daily activities like dressing, eating, etc.
During college, I attended a retreat at the Newman Center. They accepted me for who I was.
I made a lot of friends who helped me with studying and we did fun things together and felt I was a true friend. Before then, making friends was rough because they didn’t really want to get to know me. God showed me that I could have friends. A lot of these friends are still in my life now.
I received my bachelor in Computer Science in 1994.
In the Workplace
After I graduated, I received a full-time position as an Associate Business Analyst. While I was working, I received my master’s in Software Engineering from DePaul University in 2008. I was a Senior Business Analyst for HSBC, where I had worked for 14 years, when I was let go in 2009.
While I was working, I started a diversity group for employees who had a disability. It gave me great pleasure to talk about my Cerebral Palsy and how it didn’t stop me from having a full life. The enthusiasm to talk about my life grew into something that I love to do every day.
As an Advocate for Disability Awareness
Today, I am an author and public speaker who talks about my life with Cerebral Palsy. By sharing my story, I want to be an asset to society. My testimony is always from the heart.
I would love to speak to your group or organization, telling my story of fighting for inclusion, overcoming my disability and raising awareness of the disabled in the community and workplace.
People tell me they find my talks moving and inspiring — especially now, when there is so much divisiveness in our world. You can find out more about my talks and view testimonials at Chris Speaks.
I am also happy to consult privately to organizations or individuals seeking to enhance accessibility and inclusion for people with disability.