Is obesity a disability? Hmm


Discrimination against the obese has been an ever present phenomenon since the birth of the industrial era, perhaps even before, but it was not until recent decades that it escalated and became the fast growing controversy that it is today. This is usually attributed to the dramatic increase in the number of overweight Americans. In 2012, our nation was ranked number 1 amongst the most obese nations, and even though it has since then lost the throne to Mexico we are still amongst the top 5. Still, should obesity be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA is a civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination against disabled individuals in a number of areas including employment, public transportation and communications. Whether obesity should be protected under this act or not has been a thoroughly discussed topic since more and more court cases in which overweight people demand disability protection keep appearing.

The ADA defines disabilities as "an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment". It is because of this loose definition of the term and of what constitutes major life activities that many obese advocates have found ways to receive protection from the ADA in court. 

One specific court case worth mentioning is Cook v. Rhode Island. This was one of the first court cases to ever link weight discrimination with disabilities. The legal conflict developed after Cook, the overweight plaintiff, decided to apply for a position in a mental institution she had previously worked and performed favorably in twice in the past. She was turned down because her employers found her weight to be a potential liability. They had no medical tests or any other type of hard evidence to support this claim, still they rejected her and defended their decision by stating that "[her] weight compromised her ability to evacuate patients in an emergency situation and increased her chances of developing aliments that could lead Cook to be out of work or claim workers' compensation". The jury viewed this as the institution claiming that Cook had a disability that limited her life activities. Also, Cook managed to prove that morbid obesity can come as a result of a physiological disorder. A physiological illness is understood to be an illness caused by the malfunction of organs or the systems in the body. In the end the court ruled in favor of Cook; they declared that the mental institution employers were discriminating against her and found that obesity caused by physiological disorders could be considered a disability. 

Those who advocate in favor of obesity being a disease recognized this as a big step but were still not fully pleased with this resolution. They dispute the fact that other disabilities do not require a "background check" in order to receive protection. They use cancer as a common example. It does not matter if a person abused tobacco products and as a result got cancer; the fact that the individual has the disability is enough to receive the legal protection the ADA offers. On the other hand the morbidly obese need to have a physiological reason for their condition or they will not receive the ADA benefits. Also, there is currently only one American state with official state laws protecting obese citizens from discrimination; the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act in Michigan. Pro-obese groups and other supporting organizations are looking to not only getting all morbidly obese people full protection under the ADA but also creating more state laws that protect them. Their objective is to create consciousness throughout the country and eliminate weight bias in the work force and any other areas of life. 

What do you guys think? Should obesity be considered a disability?




I liked your article but I personally do not think obesity should be considered a disability at all. I have a sister who was born with a birth defect and is physically disabled. I don't think it's moral or right for someone who eats too much food to be considered disabled. This is the definition of a disability I found on the United States Department of Labor website .

i personally dont think that obesity should be considered a disability because it is often caused by an individuals poor choices. If any money or special attention should be given to people with obesity it is to help them with their problem not to accommodate them. This is one of my favorite articles on the dangers of obesity.

This is an intriguing debate because I can definitely see where both sides of the debate have points. However, I do not think that obese people should be protected under the ADA rights. The only reason why I think that is because it makes it seem that it is okay to be obese by giving people benefits for it. This is kind of like giving unemployment checks. Some people really need unemployment check because they have lost their jobs for legitimate reasons. However, some people like to cheat the system and not even try to look for a new job because they have a consistent flow of cash coming from the government. Sure, these two instances are a little different but they are both similar in the fact that people are taking away benefits from other people that may deserve it more than they do.

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