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John & Christine

Is Stammering A Disability?

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, aka stuttering, 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.

But stammering can be classed as a disability under UK law in these circumstances:

  • To protect you from disability discrimination.
  • If you want to get 'reasonable adjustments' to accommodate your stammer. For instance at work, in interviews, at school or university.
  • Claiming disability benefits (in certain circumstances).

We talk about these in more detail below.

Protection from discrimination

If you stammer you are legally protected from disability discrimination. This is because of the Equality Act and the Disability Discrimination Act (N. Ireland). These are pieces of UK law that prevent discrimination on grounds of disability. 

You're covered if stammering adversely affects your ability to carry out day-to-day activities.

You do not need to be registered as disabled. And you're covered even if you don't see your stammer as a disability. 'Disability' here is a legal concept. It is a matter of whether you fulfil a particular legal definition.

Getting 'reasonable adjustments'

Sometimes, tasks at work, university or school don't take into account stammering. They can put you at a disadvantage because of it. But the Equality Act and Disability Discrimination Act can protect you here as well.

If you find things difficult, you can ask your workplace, university or school for 'reasonable adjustments'. Speak with them about things they can do to make things easier for you, such as: 

  • Going into a separate room to make phone calls
  • Extra time for presentations, interviews or oral exams.

For loads more ideas, as well as how to ask for reasonable adjustments, see Stammering At Work, Job Interviews, University and School. You could also download our guides below.

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 below. It uses lots of legal language so it's very dry, unfortunately. But start a webchat or call our helpline if you have any questions.

Disability or difference?

This is a question that has sparked 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. 

This model 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 should also expect organisations to be flexible and respectful of your needs. So, ask for reasonable adjustments (mentioned above) if you want them.

And don't accept bullying, ridicule or exclusion.

More information

What next?

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Creating this page was only possible thanks to your kind donations. 

Please consider making a donation to STAMMA: click here. You'll be helping us to: 

  • keep our support services running for people who stammer and worried parents 
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  • create our award-winning campaigns for change. 

Thank you.

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Tayo & Bhupinder
A speaker on stage at STAMMAFest 2023

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