Conflicting and Contradictory Uses of the Word Disability

The word disability conveys different meanings depending on the context in which it is used. There are legal definitions issued by government agencies which determine whether an individual qualifies for program benefits. For instance, the US Social Security Administration (SSA) defines a disability as a physical or mental condition that prevents you from doing any substantial work at any job in the nation for one year or more.

If you have disability insurance through a private company, you may be able to receive disability benefits under their contractual definition of disability without regard for whether or not you qualify to receive benefits under the USA SSA definition of disability. They may only require that your disability prevent you from doing the job you currently hold, rather than any job in the nation.

In addition, the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) "prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, State and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation. It also mandates the establishment of TDD/telephone relay services." Several government agencies are involved in enforcing ADA. An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as "a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment."

You Know What a Disability is When You Have One

Regardless of which definition is used, or which organizations deem that you fall into their disability category, you know if you have a physical or mental condition that limits your ability to function in your life and in your job unless some accommodation has been made. In layman's terms, that is a disability.

The good news is that more and more employers are creating accessible workplaces; more and more businesses are making their products accessible to everyone. It's built in to their building plans, product plans. After all, a keyboard that is easy on the joints makes it healthier for everyone, not just those already experiencing pain.