Stuttering is defined as disrupted fluency of words by involuntary bodily interruptions. Stuttering, stammering, or struggling to voice their thoughts is a constant challenge for people who are living with this issue. It creates difficulty for both listener and speaker at the same time.
Is stuttering a disability? Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); stuttering is perceived as a disability but it has many specific conditions attached to it as many people get completely cured as well from this ailment.
The dictionary definition of stuttering is, “the flow of speech disrupted by involuntary repetitions and prolongations of sounds, syllables, words or phrases as well as involuntary silent pauses or blocks in which the person who stutters is unable to produce sounds”.
Stuttering or stammering is a speech issue that is irrelevant to gender or age. It is more than a speech issue that may create hurdles in the employment of the suffering person, as speech is an integral part of a workplace. Communication is a must in an organization and it becomes widely difficult for a person to operate or work in an environment where one cannot voice his/her opinions or thoughts.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association; stammering or stuttering usually begins in childhood and in some rare cases, it lasts for a lifetime. Stuttering is very similar to dysarthria or aphasia in which any kind of nerve or brain damage creates physical weakness of the muscles which control speech. In severe cases, it causes lifelong paralysis of the speech muscles as well.
Causes of stuttering
Research and intensive studies suggest that the real cause of stuttering is still unknown. Nobody exactly knows what causes stuttering or what instigates this speech disorder. However, medical health practitioners discovered through PET scanning and other experiments; that a mutation in four specific genes causes stuttering.
Scientists now claim that almost 70% of the stuttering disability is inherited genetically. So genes might not be the total root cause of stuttering but it is one of the known causes of stuttering.
Is stuttering a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; disability is a term that is given to any condition that restricts the person from performing basic functions such as breathing, hand movements, walking, working, or even taking care of themselves.
Stuttering is not recognized as a mental ailment and the root cause is not completely determined therefore, various attributes attached to it such as anxiety are not considered part of the diagnosis. Anxiety does increase the stuttering making the condition worse as fear usually triggers stuttering.
Stuttering is a result of a neurologic disability that is caused by an abnormal brain activity of functionality making the nerves hinder speech fluency.
Stuttering does limit a person’s capabilities to a certain level but does it hinder a person from performing basic functions of life? The answer is; not necessarily but yes in some extreme cases; the psychological effect of stuttering and public shaming becomes such a toll; that a person dives deep into depression and other mental ailments. In extreme cases; stuttering may end up a person being handicapped to a certain extent and limits their movement due to inability to communicate at school, home, job, or even at any given public place.
ADA needs more reasoning to recognize stuttering as a disability. It might be a psychiatric condition but it doesn’t necessarily hinder a person’s day-to-day activities, and a stammering person can lead a normal life.
ADA asks for thoroughly defined tests and several diagnoses; both medically and psychologically to acknowledge any given condition as a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act may perceive it as a disability but it doesn’t classify it as a terminal disability or a condition that will last lifelong.
Stuttering as a “perceived disability”
According to studies, stuttering does qualify as a psychological condition and a physical condition that affects the speech organs mainly; making the suffering person unable to perform the function of communication properly. At times it may hinder the work performance of an individual as well; restricting the sufferer from working as well.
Stuttering or stammering is considered an impairment and is also perceived as a disability by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). An advocacy group presented a judgment stating that stuttering is a legal disability but it can provoke suffering individuals who might present a very negative reaction after being called disable, the term disability usually demeans a person and can have adverse effects on a person’s mental health.
Stuttering is considered a disability in many countries across the globe but it is not called a disability openly; to prevent provoking the suffering individuals. The term disability also makes it difficult for individuals to perform in the workplace as it invites discrimination and harsh working conditions.
It has been noted that disabled people face employment discrimination at the hands of their employers and are not considered equal to normal individuals. This may lead to the stutter losing confidence in oneself; provided that there is no known treatment for stuttering.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits any kind of discrimination at the workplace or by the employer with disabling individuals. ADA protects disabled individuals who qualify for jobs. ADA determines that individuals with disabilities do get the job if they have:
- Work experience, skills, education and certifications, and training, etc.
- The right caliber required for the job in question, the disabled individual can perform the job as well as their normal counterpart.
Do stuttering individuals qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?
Stuttering is perceived as a speech disability, a lack of communication thus it does make the stuttering individual qualify for the disability benefits under the Social Security Disability Benefits program. Although, all the individuals are not treated the same as the severity of the disability differs from person to person. Individuals can make a claim and wait for approval from the Social Security Benefits.
The IRS also provides special assistance to the stuttering and stammering individuals by allowing them to deduct medical expenses such as any special equipment, speech therapies, etc. from their taxes. If the annual medical expenses exceed 7.5 percent of the gross income, then the IRS deducts that percentage from the accumulated taxes itself.
The IRS also gives due credit to the employers who hire stuttering individuals. It gives almost $2400 to the employers who hire people having stuttering or stammering disability. The targeted jobs tax credit program also gives due credit to the employers who eradicate discrimination from their workplace and hire individuals with disabilities.
Employment discrimination with the stutter
Do stutters or stammering individuals face employment discrimination in different corners of the world? the answer to this burning question is unfortunately YES!
One of the basic requirements for any job is good communication skills. It is a mandatory and essential part of a job description and is mentioned in the advertisements as well. Good communication skills teamed up with an aesthetically pleasing personality and an enduring persona make it almost impossible for the employer to ignore the resume of the applicant.
If a person lacks these skills and has problems in being verbal, then it is indeed likely that the stuttering applicant will be ignored or not considered for the job regardless of their qualifications and other skills.
People who suffer from stammering have complained about suffering discrimination from employers and even fellow employees. The inability to express themselves at the right time leads to being made fun of. At times the stuttering individuals have more knowledge about a certain topic but because of the inability of communication skills; they prefer to listen to others’ opinions only.
Stuttering makes them suffer in various stages of life resulting in detrimental effects on mental health as well as a negative impact on the overall personality. Communication is vital human activity and a hindrance in it can lead to several issues. The stuttering individual is unable to produce sounds no matter how hard one tries; it gets difficult to speak and utter a single word. The severe condition of stuttering has tears and jerks accompanied by an inability to utter a word; all this condition is involuntary.
Stereotyping attached to stuttering
The National Stuttering Association Advocacy Committee stated that countless researches in a different part of the world over different age groups suffering from stuttering and stammering have confirmed that they adhere to negative stereotypical behavior from different people at any given stage of life resulting in harming their mental peace as well as demotivating them to continue with their life.
These stereotype notations are widely attributed to stutters such as nervousness, panic and anxiety, anxiousness, tension, fear, quietness, shyness, reticence, and guarding themselves against an invisible rush of emotions.
The stigma attached to these individuals is a crude and harsh face of society and it cannot be changed resulting in the stammering individuals to suffer in almost every phase of life.
Stuttering is not just a speech issue, is stuttering a disability? Yes, it is and at times a disability that lasts a lifetime.