“Most of the limitations you think you have are the ones you have decided on. They are often entirely self-imposed. You might think, `I can`t do this, and I can`t do that, I would never do that, my parents could never do that, I never played baseball, I never climbed a mountain, I never, never, never...` It`s the old broken record in your head. Throw out that negative thinking right now! Learn to play a positive message in your head because it`s all about attitude."

~ David Patchell-Evans

Monday, April 7, 2014

Stuttering as a Disability

UPDATE: Apparently we now have some US lawyers agreeing that yes, yes indeed, stuttering can indeed be a disability under the terms of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Good to know. 

What says you? Is stuttering a disability? And, if so, should it be "legally protected"?

It seems to me that this should have a fairly easy common sense answer. And if it doesn't, it should.

Of course, stuttering is a disability from a legal point of view.
Section 10 (1) of the Code defines “disability” as follows:
“because of disability” means for the reason that the person has or has had, or is believed to have or have had,
  1. any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, a brain injury, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device,
But I think worrying about a potential "widespread backlash against all persons with disabilities" is a bit of fear mongering an over-reaction. Why?

All you need do is check out the comments at the end of the article to find a very common sense response.
Of course it's a disability, but not one that should ever override a common sense BFOQ. [Ed. I believe that is meant to read BFOR - "bona fide occupational requirement**.] But if a person is denied a position they could handle because a stutter "isn't pretty" then that's discrimination. 



** We've discussed this very same issue many years ago and although I didn't use the commonly-accepted terminology at the time, this is exactly what I was talking about. 

Duty to accommodate meet bona fide occupational requirements.
The duty to accommodate can include things like altering the physical workplace, redefining a job description or altering the work schedule. If a driver's license is a job requirement, for example, and the interviewee doesn't have one, there is a duty on the employer to enquire why, to see if a disability is behind it ie) epilepsy. In which case the employer would have to consider what alternations he might make so that driving would not be necessary or whether he could change the job description to give the driving portion to another employee.

And it's important to realize that it would be a lot harder to accommodate certain disabilities in some jobs than in others. For example, is it possible to accommodate a blind person who seeks to be an editor? In all honesty, even with technology, I don't know. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't.

What about a person in a wheelchair, with no use of her arms or legs, who dreams of being a firefigher? There might be some job back at the fire station that she could conceivably perform but it would be a little hard to picture her actually out there fighting a fire, wouldn't it?

2 comments:

CTI said...

There's actually no reason a blind person cannot be an editor - reading a computer screen may be impossible, but a Braille display can completely compensate.

There is no perfect answer in this case. People who are self-aware will not apply for a position that requires abilities they do not possess.

Employers who are good people should accommodate where the accommodations do not mean reduced performance.



Michelle Morgan-Coole said...

Agreed. But the law requires a bit of a higher standard than that implied in that last comment, "Employers who are good people should accommodate where the accommodations do not mean reduced performance."

In Canada, at least, employers are required to accommodate until the point of "undue hardship", which some have interpreted as accommodate until it hurts and then a wee bit more.