Is Stammering Considered a Disability?
For a disability discrimination claim at an Employment tribunal to be successful it needs to pass the test as laid out by the Equality Act 2010. Broadly speaking this means that stammering is a disability if it has a substantial adverse effect on the ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities such as having a conversation or using the telephone. It is important to note that the stammer will need to have lasted at least 12 months by the time the discrimination has occurred.
It does not even need for it to be a severe stammer for the test to be met, as statutory guidance for the Equality Act shows in this example:
“…A man has had a stammer since childhood. He does not stammer all the time, but his stammer, particularly in telephone calls, goes beyond the occasional lapses in fluency found in the speech of people who do not have the impairment. However, this effect can often be hidden by his avoidance strategies. He tries to avoid making or taking telephone calls where he believes he will stammer, or he does not speak as much during the calls. He sometimes tries to avoid stammering by substituting words, or by inserting extra words of phrases…In these cases there are substantial adverse effects on the person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day communication activities”
So from the above points it is clear that a stammer will more often than not be considered as being a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act. Obviously each case comes down to its own facts and if your employer does try to claim your stammer is not a disability there are many cases which support your cause.
One only has to look at the case of Shirlow v Translink to see that tribunals are fairly lenient with regard to classing stammering as a disability. The employer tried to argue that his speech difficulty only came about in unusual situations such as job interviews and the tribunal. Despite this line of enquiry the tribunal accepted it as a disability in that he took longer than someone who does not have an impairment to say things, they also noted that he would employ avoidance strategies such as asking other people to do things for him and he had difficulties shopping and getting meals.
With the guidelines above and some strong supportive case law it is becoming harder and harder for employers to deny that a stammer, especially one which has an impact at work, can be classed as a disability and as such if you do suffer from one you should not feel that you have to suffer discrimination in silence from them.