Depression, Obesity, Drug Addiction Not a Disability, Survey Says

Most Americans agree that blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis are among conditions that should be considered a disability, according to a recent survey, while issues such as depression, obesity and drug addiction are less likely to be regarded as such.


With debate taking place over Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income benefits for disabled children and children with mental health issues, among other benefits for the disabled, the issue of what constitutes a disability has become a regular topic on the floor of both houses of Congress.

The recent Harris Poll, which asked more than 2,200 Americans where they stand on key disability issues, also found that while the majority of Democrats believe speech/language disorders, learning disabilities and cancer should be considered a disability, less than half of Republicans agree.

The poll asked participants their age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, household income, political affiliation and if they have a disability or live in a household with someone who has a disability.

Of the people who identified as Republicans, 47 percent said speech disorders should be considered a disability, 46 percent said learning disabilities should be considered a disability and 45 percent believed cancer should be regarded as a disability. Among Democrats, 57 percent said speech disorders should be considered a disability, 54 percent said learning disabilities should be considered a disability and 52 percent believed cancer should be regarded as a disability.

Some issues are consensus: Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed think companies should not discriminate against an employee, and 88 percent believe customers should not be discriminated based on disability.

Moreover, 75 percent of Americans think employers with more than 15 employees should be expected to make reasonable accommodations. The conditions that most people think should be considered a disability are: vision loss, blindness, or other permanent vision impairments (88 percent); cerebral palsy (83 percent), hearing loss, deafness, or other permanent hearing impairments (79 percent); multiple sclerosis (78 percent); autism (68 percent) and epilepsy (68 percent).

The issues that pulled the least amount of support are depression (29 percent), migraine headaches (22 percent), morbid obesity (17 percent), anorexia/bulimia (16 percent), drug addiction (10 percent), alcoholism (9 percent) and compulsive gambling (5 percent).

The biggest generational gap lies in the realm of employment, with 82 percent of “Matures” answering that job candidates should have to disclose any disabilities during the interview process, and 55 percent of “Millennials” answering yes to the same question.

As for how disability issues impact the first Tuesday in November, 47 percent say they would vote for a candidate that shares their stance on disability rights.

People with disabilities or who share a household with someone with a disability are even more likely to allow a candidate’s policy on disability to sway their decision. About 56 percent of people with a disability polled said they would vote for a congressional or senate candidate based on their stance on the issue, while 59 percent of people who share a household said they would. And 55 percent of people with a disability (and 56 percent for people who share a household with someone who’s disabled) polled said it would affect their presidential vote.

The timing is impeccable; the nation celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act just as the 2016 Presidential election cycle kicked off. If the chatter around disability rights lingers, each candidate from both parties may be forced to lay out to the American public how they would approach this issue.

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