"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things."

~ Niccolo Machiavelli, historian and writer

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Obesity as a Disability

And now for something a little different ...

You will recall our previous discussions around the release earlier this year of a landmark decision by the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) concerning the right of individuals with disabilities to travel by air without having to pay for a second seat, for an attendant or other use, to accommodate their disability.

I am pleased to grant the request of Ms. Kelly Kilpatrick to write a guest post on a slightly different aspect aspect of this decision, as set out below.

After all, the issue of who is included and who is exluded from participation in a particular group is certainly one that strikes a chord among the disability community. But what about the question of who exactly is included by the term "disability"?

Something to think about ...

Obesity as a Disability

I almost don't want to touch this one because it's such a hot button issue for so many. The Canadian Supreme Court ruled that is requiring airlines based in that country to accommodate disabled and obese passengers when they need an additional seat or an attendant to accompany them.

The Supreme Court of Canada had refused to hear an appeal from Air Canada, upholding a Transportation Agency ruling ordering carriers to charge all passengers the same fare and not make people pay extra when they need an additional seat for medical reasons.

Whether or not obesity should be defined as a disability in legal terms remains hotly contested. Many feel the obese are NOT disabled because for the vast majority of obese people, there is no medical reason for their obesity. Their size is largely due to high-calorie diets and low activity levels.

There is no doubt that the debate over the obesity issue as a medical condition will only continue to grow as the battle over coveted and expensive airline seats rages on.

Obese people are getting more of the treatment reserved for the disabled. Many are able to secure handicapped parking permits and preferred parking. There have even been some cases where obese people attempt to sue for disability payments. But is this fair? After all, obesity is not caused by an injury or disease (yes, obesity is itself a disease). There are many corresponding and disabling conditions associated with obesity that cause significant mobility impairment and some conditions that can be fatal if not controlled.

But, what makes a person disabled? Is it merely the fact that, no matter how you got to that point, there are things you can no longer do or activities for which you require extra assistance?

The issue of obesity-caused disability will only worsen as time goes on and the number of obese Canadians skyrockets. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions and we, as a nation, will need to decide if accommodating the limitations people place on themselves by being obese make sense or if they only enable those suffering from it.

By-line:
This post was contributed by Kelly Kilpatrick, who writes on the subject of a
nursing assistant. She invites your feedback at kellykilpatrick24 at gmail dot com

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