What do you call it?

Aug 25, 2013
Tagged with: What do you call it?

I was asked to comment on obesity and if it should be considered a physical disability. In our world today, this issue has become a stigma in our culture because of the fixation on being thin or skinny.  Many believe that anyone who is not thin or skinny is considered unattractive.  Interestingly, if this is truly part of our cultural mindset then this would seem to make many of us unattractive. Regardless, what it does is continue to ostracize and abandon a group of society who are looking to be engaged in life activities.

Under the ADA guidelines a disability is considered anything that “interferes with one of the major life activities”. (Justice, 2009). When I think of this subject what comes to mind is that a person is so obese that they cannot function to the point that they are always stationary. If a person is at that stage I can see where it would be considered a disability. Being stationary would limit a persons major life activity. But if a person who is considered obese, is not stationary, and there is no disruption of a major life activity then I think it loses its status as being labeled a disability. It would seem we are looking for degrees of obesity. Can not one overcome their obesity to the point to where their lifestyle is active and free from being stationary? Could it be that we are looking for levels of disability?

In my case, I am an active independent individual but I will always have a physical disability.  It does not impede my independence but I will always have it. I deal with it so that it does not interfere with any major life activity. Is it possible a person who is obese can overcome their obesity to the point that they would no longer be considered obese? This is not the case for those who have a physical disability such as amputation, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, blindness etc. They will always have a permanent physical disability. It almost seems obesity needs to be moved into the category of chronic health or disease. People can and have overcome cancer and other health issues, right? Still when do we stop calling it a disability and move it to a health condition? I think this could also help eliminate some of the ugly stereotypes.

Also, further discussions need to be made about what public accommodations need to be made for people with obesity. No doubt that all people with physical disabilities should have accommodations to make their life function in a way that allows for completion of major life activities. The purpose of ADA is to make sure that accommodations can be met for all people regardless of disability type. What accommodations would a person with obesity need that anyone with a physical disability would need? Why should there be a difference? Isn’t the goal is to ensure fulfillment of major life activities for everyone?

In the end our nation has to stop this dis-service to a group of citizens that do have serious health issues. It would be great if people who fight with obesity knew that we as a society are there to help and serve, not judge and condemn.  The next step is for people with obesity to know there are places to go and things to do to win this battle. What is even more important is that all people with and without disabilities take ownership of their lives, seek education, seek employment, and develop healthy active lifestyles. Have you taken control of your lifestyle activity?


Articles on obesity






Justice, D. o. (2009). Americans with Disabilities Act 1990. Myth and Facts about ADA, http://www.ada.gov/archive/mythfact.htm.



Author: Bob Lujano