Sep 17, 2010
I was applying for a job with the Secret Service when I came across a question that gave me pause:
Do you have a disability?
I had never thought of my heart condition as a disability. A disability is something that makes people limp, scares them into never leaving their house, requires prosthetic limbs, or causes slurred speech, but could that also be me?
Knowing, nearly dreading what I would find, I looked up the definition of disability as put forth by the American's with Disabilities Act of 1990 (or ADA... yeah) which states:
“The term ‘disability’ means, with respect to an individual –
(a) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual;
(b) a record of such impairment; or
(c) being regarded as having such an impairment.” (P.L. 101-336, Sec. )
This leaves things a bit loose. If someone says, "You're retarded," for telling a stupid joke, are you really mentally handicapped? According to ADA rules you are. Or are they asserting that perception of said individual is what determines whether there is a disability or not? What master of telepathy would be able to determine the generally agreed upon opinion of a group about some person? Opinion? Is perception not just that?
That definition won't do.
According to http://www.ucp.org/ucp_channeldoc.cfm/1/13/12632/12632-12632/6184, which has been helping me look up the legal definitions to disability thus far
"Generally, disabilities fall into the following types:
Mobility Impairment Mobility impairment refers to the inability of a person to use one or more of his/her extremities, or a lack of strength to walk, grasp, or lift objects. The use of a wheelchair, crutches, or a walker may be utilized to aid in mobility.
Cognitive Impairment A cognitive impairment affects a person’s ability to reason, understand, and learn. Cognitive disabilities are separated into two categories: learning disabilities and mental retardation.
Hearing Impairment Hearing impairments range from a mild hearing loss to total deafness. Those who are hard of hearing often use their residual hearing and lip read when communicating face-to-face. People who are deaf may use American Sign Language or lip-read, and may speak for themselves or use a sign-language interpreter.
Visual Impairment A visual impairment affects a person’s ability to see, and includes: (1) inability to see images clearly and distinctly; (2) loss of visual field; (3) inability to detect small changes in brightness; (4) color blindness; and (5) sensitivity to light. A cane or sight dog may be used to assist with mobility, and/or Braille may be used to read.
Speech Impairment Speech impairments range from problems with articulation or voice strength to complete voicelessness. People with speech impairments may have difficulty in projection, articulation and fluency. Some people with speech impairments may use assistive devices or an interpreter to communicate."
Thi is very similar to my personal definition of a disability. Though I have bouts of having trouble with all of these, they are never to the extent these definitions describe. Therefore, I have none of these.
"Disability, according to the World Health Organization, is defined as ...an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Thus disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives."
It seems no one really knows what is considered disabled and what is not.
There is the loose definition that usually says something to the extent of: any physical or mental situation that is different from the average situation of the human body that causes inability to perform common tasks either completely or without serious discomfort to the individual. This definition I fall completely into. The tighter definition is more of what I found on the Secret Service application to be referred to as a targeted disability:
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines a targeted disability as: Deaf, Blind, Missing Extremities, Partial or Complete Paralysis, Convulsive Disorders, Mentally Retarded, Mental Illness, or Distortion of Limb or Spine. (the application)
The application puts this definition under another category. The first question asking if I am disabled, the second asking if I have a targeted disability. I know I do not have the latter...
Some people classify their mutation type disabilities not as a disability but as a separate culture all to themselves (such as the deaf). My mutation detracts from doing simple tasks on a regular basis. Does that make their culture more or less disabled than my mutant heart or vice versa? They do not see their mutation as a hindrance, yet they are protected under the government for having a disability. I can't even get health insurance to keep me out of pain. Which is a disability? Which one should be? Both are potentially curable if the patient is a good subject and a willing participant, but both could also be incurable.
Do I have a disability?
(I ticked no)