The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is. The Perfect Job: Tips for Getting (and Keeping) a Job

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Re: Definition of Disability

From: Beth Bienvenu
Date: 03 Oct 2006
Time: 21:51:28 -0500
Remote Name:


Thank you so much for adding to this year's On-line conference. In your article, you stated that some PWS may be classified as disabled. Can you give some examples of this classification and how the ADA defines disability? Thank you for your question. Before I start, I just wanted to let you know that Anita Blom addressed this very question in her article “Is stuttering a disability?”, so you may want to check that out on the list of articles on the ISAD page. But here is my take on it. Disabilities, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, an individual is considered to have a "disability" if s/he has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. This is mostly a legal definition, but it can apply to our own uses of the definition. Do people who stutter have an impairment that limits a major life activity? In some cases I’d say yes. Speaking and communicating is a major life function and there are people who stutter badly enough that it significantly limits this activity. Is there a record of such an impairment? This can be obtained through an assessment by a speech language pathologist. Is the person regarded as having such an impairment? This question has been a problem for many when trying to address discriminatory behavior against themselves. If a person doesn’t have a very noticeable stutter, and doesn’t disclose his or her stuttering, the speech patterns can be misinterpreted as nervousness or anxiety. Therefore the “regarded as” part of the definition can be important. But aside from the legal implications, I believe it’s up to each of us to determine if our stuttering is a disability. Personally, I don’t consider it one for myself because 1) I am covert, so I’m able to “hide” it much of the time, and 2) it’s mild/moderate to begin with. I would not claim it as a disability to gain hiring preferences (e.g., the Schedule A hiring program in the federal government), and I may not check a box on a form to indicate a disability. But I believe that there are others for whom it would be appropriate and beneficial to do so. It depends on each person’s feelings about themselves, their stuttering, and the label of “disability.”

Last changed: 10/23/06