The term “disability” is actually a very specific legal term, which means that a condition impedes normal functioning and prevents a person from doing certain things.
Stuttering is, in fact, a developmental disorder. A “physical disorder” would be a disorder that interferes with the functioning of a bodily organ or limb. A “psychological disorder” would be a mental illness that interferes with normal functioning.
But is it a disability? In general terms, many stutterers disagree about its qualification as a disability.
A large number of stutterers resent the idea that they are disabled or somehow “less than” because they stutter, and very strongly disagree with any terminology labeling stuttering a disability.
Other stutterers believe that their stuttering keeps them from performing certain jobs, and that they need help, because of this disability, in obtaining and retaining certain positions.
Many countries do classify stuttering as a disability in terms of employment, and companies in these countries must provide the same opportunities for stutterers as other employees. In most cases, stuttering is legally a disability only when stuttering causes physical or psychological disability and limits the stutterer’s activities.
Declaring stuttering a disability requires employers to hire qualified stutterers for positions that do not require fluent speech and cannot be performed by a stutterer.
This definition of stuttering as a disability only applies to severe stutters, and only applies in the area of employment.
While some stutterers may still object to the idea of anyone being called disabled because of a stutter, the fact remains that some stutterers cannot function normally because their stuttering interferes with their job performance. The disability classification requires employers to provide accommodations, and allows these stutterers to function normally at work.
The point of stuttering being a disability is not to make stutterers somehow less worthy, important or whole than other people. The point is to make sure that people who can perform very skilled jobs, but happen to stutter, can get jobs worthy of their qualifications.
Whether stutterers consider themselves disabled or not, many employers will not hire stutterers. Calling stuttering a disability actually helps many stutterers get around the prejudices of employers. To claim that calling it a disability is in itself discrimination is a little shortsighted, to say the least.
In a perfect and fair world, there would be no need for laws and rulings about discrimination. Employees would hire the best people, put them in the right positions, and everything would be fine.
We do not live in a perfect and fair world. Legally defining stuttering as a disability provides opportunities for severe stutterers that these people would not otherwise have.
It’s understandable that stutterers would disagree about this matter. Even some stutterers who are helped by the disability designation don’t want the designation. However, it’s not just an individual designation, and people with a stuttering disorder should consider the benefits that many people receive as a result of this designation. No one is forced to claim disability as a stutterer, but those who do have far more opportunities than otherwise.