Find out if stammering is classed as a disability. Read about the differing views of people who do and don't see themselves as being disabled.
Some people feel strongly that stammering, or stuttering as it's called in other parts of the world, is a disability. They find their stammer is profoundly disabling. For others, however much they stammer, it may not be a disabling issue for them. Or they may not wish to be defined as having a disability.
Protection from discrimination
Regardless of this, people who stammer can be legally protected from disability discrimination. This is because of the Equality Act and the Disability Discrimination Act. These pieces of UK law prevent discrimination on grounds of disability. Under the Acts, stammering can be classed a disability if it's severe enough to affect day-to-day activities.
'Disability' here is a legal concept. It is a matter of whether you fulfil a particular legal definition. You do not need to register as disabled or see yourself as disabled within the wider sense to be protected.
Disability benefits & stammering
In certain situations, people who stammer might be entitled to disability benefits. The Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a disability benefit paid to people aged 16-64. It depends on the individual's specific circumstances and is points-based. It involves having a face-to-face assessment with a health professional to see what level of assistance people need.
Download our 'Stammering, Discrimination & the Law' guide — see the Downloads section on this page. it uses lots of legal language so it's very dry, unfortunately. But chat to us if you have any questions.
DISABILITY OR DIFFERENCE?
There's a bigger debate in the community. Is stammering a disability or a medical condition which needs 'managing'? Or, is it a difference we need to learn to accept?
Medical v Social Model
Disability has traditionally been seen as something that people need to manage or 'fix'. People call this view the 'Medical Model of Disability'. Indeed, for many people who stammer, feelings of shame can make them aim for fluency. In a world where stammering is not accepted, this is understandable.
The 'Social Model of Disability' is a newer concept. It says that people are not disabled by their medical condition. Rather, it is the attitudes and structures of society that disable people. It argues that these attitudes leave people with disabilities feeling excluded. That they restrict people from participating fully in society and living their lives.
What does STAMMA believe?
We believe it shouldn't be a binary choice. We believe that people should be able to be accepted and respected as they are. But this shouldn't stop people from finding support and presenting themselves to the world in a way which is comfortable for them.
We live in a society where we expect peoples' differences to be accepted. We expect there to be support, reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities to be able to function. And to be accepted for who and how they are. Whether visually impaired or in a wheelchair. A stammer is no different.
Many people find that controlling a stammer can get in the way of expressing themselves. And that it can be an intolerable and unacceptable strain.
There is no reason why anyone should feel pressure to talk 'fluently'. And indeed for some it is utterly impossible. Expecting someone to mask their difference is no longer acceptable in today's society. So don't accept pressure to talk smoothly. You can ask for reasonable adjustments at work if you stammer. You should expect services and agencies to be flexible and respectful of your needs. And don't accept bullying, ridicule or exclusion.
Visit stammeringlaw.org.uk for a wealth of information on stammering and UK disability discrimination law.