Stuttering and Disability Discrimination
by Michael Sugarman
Looking at stuttering through the lenses of disability
or disability rights does not mean PWS have to feel
ashamed dis-ABLED. Rather recognizes a social
construct that discrimination against people who
stutter does exist. If you have felt passed up for
employment or promotion or demoted or denied access or
treated unfairly or ridiculed because you stutter. It
Our stuttering does not devalue us-it calls out those
around us who see us, not for who we are or what we can
do - by having a disability bestows certain legal
protection and rights that are not available to others.
We can still have pride and self respect - a disability
rights perspective recognizes the importance of
addressing stigma and discrimination.
Rehab. Act 504 was the basis for American Disability
In the late 70's as E.D. for NSA a number of issues
arose such as:
Returned as E.D. for NSA in '95 - '97. We wrote a
brochure Stuttering, Employment Discrimination and ADA.
A number of parents and people who stuttered contacted
NSA for legal resources. A few PWS reported they
settled disputes with No court action. And parents
reported secured speech therapy services for their
You can find information on American Disabilities Act
and Stuttering and Individualized Education Program on
Stuttering Foundation of America website.
In 2010 a American Disabilities Act Amendments Act case
Hartman v. National Board of Medical Examiners - U.S.
District judge recognized severe stuttering qualifies
as a disability under the ADA entitling reasonable
accommodation. (Stuttering & the Law-Stuttering
Employment Resource website). And UCLA Law school will
be publishing Disability Law Journal 2019.
Discrimination cases are difficult to prove-today PWS
and parents have legal resources by contacting legal
disability rights organization to have your voice heard.
- 1978 Dr. Rai at Southern University of New Orleans was
a biology teacher and filed suit he was wrongfully
demoted. He contacted us. Mark Green was an attorney on
the board of Directors. And suggested that Dr. Rai's
attorney ask each student whether Dr. Rai stutter
interfered with learning. US District Judge Fred Heebe ruled in favor of Dr. Rai.
Compensatory damages were $7500. He returned to
- NSA drafted a letter to California Youth Authority to
have each child who stuttered to be assessed and
treated - Under PL 94 142 later known as Individuals
with Disabilities Act. A number of parents
contacted NSA to obtain speech therapy services in
public schools. In turn that led NSA to take a role in
ASHA to create a specialization in stuttering for
SLP's. Specialization in stuttering by SLP's became a
- 1981 Rehab. Act 504 was not fully implemented. 8 of the
52 NSA peer support groups and parents and handful of
SLP's took to writing letters to Congress. Those
actions by the stuttering community secured Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act to provide speech
therapy services and Individualized Education Program
for children who stuttered. And American with
Disabilities Act Amendments Act, so we cannot be judged
based on our stuttering.
added May 18, 2018 with permission of Michael Sugarman