Obesity – Is It a Disability?

by Lap Band Groupie


This will most likely be a controversial subject (I’m still struggling with indecision), but it’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. On my recent trip to Disney World, it was peak season/Spring Break, so the crowds were a 10 out of 10. However, since our last trip five years ago, the ratio of wheelchairs and mainly scooters was astoundingly larger. We noticed it the moment we arrived at the first park. I also noticed that they were almost all driven by obese people.

I hadn’t mentioned it, but even my youngest son (16) commented once how many there were, and lat quietly asked if obesity is considered a handicap. I’m sure that this question may have been sparked, at least in part, by the scooter and the rider’s entourage, now passing us up in the Fast Pass line. Just know that we have two handicapped nephews/his cousins that he dearly loves, so he is very understanding of the difficulties they face and his question was genuine.

What shocked me was that I was speechless to answer (me, who always has some thoughts or answer about most things regarding obesity)… I was suddenly completely lost in my own thoughts about this. My husband quickly chimed in that sometimes having other disabilities can make it more likely that you get obese because you can’t exercise. You can’t always see every disability and we don’t know which one came first (my son knows I had hypertension and other things caused by my obesity).

He also mentioned that some of the people on scooters are probably only obese, but now that scooters are more accessible they have the ability, they hadn’t had before, to come to Disney and enjoy it as we have. He also mentioned that we don’t know what the Disney rules are concerning what is considered a disability.

I didn’t stop thinking of this the rest of that day. I was torn between the obese person’s defensiveness and guilt over even wondering if some of this isn’t enabling even more obesity. I looked around the parks and it was hard not to notice the prevalence of obesity, even in the children.

I also noticed several large trucks loading and unloading scooters at our resort. There are so many things enabling this country (and others) towards obesity… portion sizes, fast food, and cheap processed foods top that list, but couldn’t the accessibility of scooters now also be an enabler for some? I know how many long walks my husband and I took trying to get our legs ready for this trip.

I kept thinking back to my ‘Lap Band Moment’ of decision in Paris where I was sitting on the plaza (perpetuating the ‘Fat Lazy American’ stereotype) with my ballooning feet while my family was waving to me from the top of Notre Dame above (that I couldn’t make it up the stairs as I’d almost busted a lung climbing another church the day before). If Paris had had elevators in their churches and a scooter for me to ride (OK, it would have had to have treads for the cobblestones… sadly, I don’t know how people in wheelchairs get around there), I have NO doubts that I would not have had my moment – at least not then.

What spurred me toward change was the fact that I could NOT do what I/my family wanted. If I was even more obese this trip to Disney and couldn’t have made it through a whole day with my son, would I have had my Lap-Band Moment then, or would I have seen the ease of renting a scooter instead? Would the ease of the scooter have moved me toward increased obesity and the chances of being in one full time?

Trust me, I know obese people who are/have been completely wheelchair bound and I totally feel for them… I know that could have been me. Obesity is so very hard, is it harsh to not want to make it easier in some small way?

OK, first, I’m no lawyer, so I may have some of this wrong and I plan to do some more research, but I came home and looked into Disney’s Disability policies they seemed ambiguous to me, but what wasn’t is that Disney has recognized the scooter explosion and has made many of their regular standby lines scooter/wheelchair accessible. I also found out that “Recent research now states that obesity can constitute a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.” (4/9/12 article “Living with a Disability” online magazine). It used to be that the obesity also had to show an underlying medical condition. And “Other than in Michigan, though, being obese is not a protected category. But a recent federal court decision held that severe obesity (defined as body weight 100% over normal weight) is covered by the ADA. The EEOC takes the same view.” (1/31/12 article “Warren & Associates LLC” online).

So are we moving toward 1/3 of all American’s being considered disabled? Does that mean you can get disability benefits? Will this enable some not to make a change in their obesity?

Social Security used to list obesity on their list of impairments and now “SSA will consider obesity under the impairment listings only if 1) its limitations are equivalent to (“equal”) those in an impairment listing or 2) it causes or contributes other listed impairments.” (DisabilitySecrets.com). Many are being approved on a cases by case basis.

I’m still working my way through where I stand on all this – it’s certainly food… no, ‘an issue’ for thought…especially for those of us that are obese.

I’ll always consider myself a recovering obese person…to me, it’s just like being an alcoholic…something I still have to work at every day.

Related Pages:
Cause and Effect of Obesity
Weight Loss Surgery and Obesity Health Problems
Obesity Discrimination

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