Is SD a disability?

SD can be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Many individuals with voice disorders may not realize that their conditions can be classified as a disability under the law, entitling them to workplace accommodations and time off to pursue medical treatment.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet. A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment. The ADA even includes the specific terms “speaking”, “communicating”, and “working” under the umbrella of major life activities.

Since the amendments to the ADA in 2008, the designation of disability is now to be assigned at an individual’s baseline functioning, regardless of the effects of any “mitigating measures.” Mitigating measures refer to such things as pharmaceutical/medical interventions or physical devices. Many people with SD might feel that their symptoms are “manageable” with a combination of BOTOX and speech therapy. However, what if those treatments were completely withheld? Imagine someone with SD never having access to medical interventions or services. Would speaking be substantially limited in that case? If the answer is yes, then your SD is considered a disability under the ADA. Establishing the status of disability at baseline functioning (pre-intervention) enables individuals to ask for time off from work (considered a “reasonable accommodation”) in order to access the medical interventions that allow them to continue working in an optimal capacity.

Virtually any voice disorder, whether acute or chronic, has the potential to be recognized as a disability even if symptoms are not consistent. Even a person whose symptoms might be more prominent at the end of a workday or towards the end of a workweek might now qualify for workplace accommodations.

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) has a list of potential employee accommodations that may be useful to someone with a voice disorder.