Make Room For The Stuttering

More On Stuttering As A Disability

Posted on: June 17, 2011

A very timely and interesting article was written this week at about a police officer who stutters who is being reassigned. He believes his reassignment will endanger his life and others, as he will not be as effective in his road patrol role.

Because of his stuttering, Ken Parson would likely have trouble quickly yelling “Stop, police!” to a bad guy or calling “Officer needs assistance!”, in part, because Parson’s stuttering gets worse when he’s under stress.

Parson also would have a hard time gaining respect from suspects if he stutters. “The attitude might be: ‘No way, I’m not stopping for a stutterer.'”

In his role as a detective, Parson’s speech impediment worked in his favor. His stuttering has disarmed some suspects into confessing.

Under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), Parson is entitled to a “reasonable accommodation” of his disability. But Parson is not seeking anything other than keeping his current role.

“What they’re doing is removing the accommodation by moving him from his detective job, which he functions very well in, and onto road patrol. That decision is inconsistent with safety.”  Parson has retained a lawyer and is fighting the reassignment.

This will be interesting to follow and see how the law and the ADA respond to this case, where indeed stuttering is a disability in Parson’s job as a police officer. This article was a great follow-up to my recent post on “Who Gets To Make The Choice?” 

In this case, I definitely believe this officer’s stuttering is a disability that requires reasonable accommodation in order for him to perform his job effectively and safely.

What do you think? Thoughts? Comments? Let’s continue the discussion.

4 Responses to "More On Stuttering As A Disability"

I agree, in this case it is a disability. It prevents him from doing one job well, but in the detective job it can be an asset — one coin, two sides.

We need to de-stigmatize the term ‘disability’, and to separate a localized disability with lack of ability in other areas.

The only way to do that is for people with disabilities to do great things, and use the accommodations if necessary. It won’t happen if they don’t do great things, or if they do great things but no one knows they’re disabled, or if they over-use the disabled card.

I still don’t know what to recommend about the label in your case, but I have an idea for an exercise for your boss. Ask him for a second evaluation, rating your performance using the same criteria as he rates your coworkers — the end result, including reliability, team work and done on time. Assure him it’s informal, off the record, won’t hurt your feelings, you won’t bring him to court over discrimination, etc. The exercise might force him to realize that only very few, localized areas have different scores.

In your job, the accommodations needed are minor and inexpensive. A label shouldn’t be needed to get them, but be prepared to bring in the big guns if you need to. You are good at the job. You are also a good role model.

If you were counseling someone else, what questions would you ask them?

It is interesting that Alan B in his past experiemnce as PWS police officer, actually liked being on streets. Sure it was difficult in times to do his job, but he once recalled that it was easier for him to speak from a position of power and his stuttering was less when he had to yell “stop, police”. I for example would stop for a stuttering police officer – come on, he has a gun and the power. I remember when in Russia I was working in a magazine, my boss was absolutely oblivious to my fears. So she often asked me to call authors and consultants as well as to be at the exhibitions stand talking to people. At that time I was hiding my fears and self-doubts, so i couldn’t say – no I cannot do it, I stutter. So I had to do it. I recall many awkward moments, when I had problems because of this and it was hard initially to get respect from the listener. But after a while, they would change their opinion of me and I could feel it in their tone of voice. So even though my boss insensitivity to my “disability” made life harder for me, it actually did me good since I learned to face my fears and just do it.

Hi Pam, May I have your email address?

Thank you for the blog on the stuttering and disability and to share it . for more help and treatment of stuttering disability anyone can visit the site

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