Sunday, 7 March 2010

Is it a disability?

I keep asking myself if stuttering is a disability. I'm sure some people see it as one, but I'm not sure. I always have trouble answering the disability question when I apply for something somewhere. Am I truly disabled because of my stutter? Am I unable to carry out day-to-day activities?

I personally do not think it is a disability in the true sense. I can still talk on the telephone, I can still speak in front of large audiences, I can still do presentations. I realize this may seem as if it doesn't apply to all people who stutter, but it does. You all can do it. The only difference is the length of time it takes for you to do it.

The way I see it is that stuttering is kind of like if you had a limp. The limp does not prevent you from going to the store across the street, nor does it stop you from participating in a marathon. It just prevents you from doing those things as easily as people who have no limp. OK, maybe not the best analogy but you get what I'm saying.

A bit off-topic, but I really dislike when people compare stuttering to those who are paralysed. I saw this recently somewhere where people who stutter said that mocking someone's stutter is just as bad as mocking someone in a wheelchair. I think that is a pretty gross exaggeration.

At the end of the day, us stutterers need to realize that we can lead perfectly functional lives in all areas of life, except telesales... That would be interesting. Imagine a call centre which only hired people who stuttered!

Anyway... do I think it is a disability? Not when compared to others, no. Do I think it is an inconvenience, frustrating and, at times, tiring? Definitely.


atyrer said...

Hi Mike. If by 'disability' you mean the UK legal definition in the DDA, talking more slowly may well count. Official guidance (para D25(i)) says that it would be reasonable to regard as having a 'substantial' effect "taking longer than someone who does not have an impairment to say things".

I guess it's not necessarily saying a tribunal must regard this as substantial, but that it would be 'reasonable' to. There's more about the DDA meaning of disability generally on my stammeringlaw website.

You mention slow walking. Another example the Guidance gives of something it would be reasonable to regard as substantial is "difficulty walking other than at a slow pace" (para D20).

Main thing is though, even if it's a disability legally within the DDA, it's good to hear the stammer isn't holding you back in what you do. (And by the way I have heard of someone doing telesales with a stammer.)

I'm not too sure about the wheelchair point - a person with a wheelchair might well say they could live a perfectly functional life if buildings and infrastructure were properly designed in an inclusive way (the 'social model' of disability) - maybe more functional than many people who stammer. Though of course it depends on the individual case.

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