The Stigma of Disabilities and the Americans with Disabilities Act

  • Michael Selmi


Recently, as I was waiting to board a plane, I heard the gate agent make the following announcement: “If you have a disability and need assistance, please come to the podium at this time.” I had never heard the boarding announcement stated in quite this way before, which seemed to require individuals to declare that they had a disability in order to board the plane earlier than other passengers. It sounded so odd to me and I wondered why the airline felt comfortable placing the requirement in the form of a disability. Surely, they would never have said, “If you are black … or if you are a woman, if you are gay,” or “If you are elderly,” even though the elderly often need boarding assistance. Why, I wondered, did they believe it was acceptable to label someone as disabled? I wanted to go to the podium to express my concern, but as Paul Miller (2007) has noted, I did not even have a vocabulary to express my displeasure. Unlike racism, sexism, homophobia, or ageism, there is no word to describe discriminatory attitudes based on disability. At the time, the best I could come up with was that the airline was being insensitive but that word felt wholly inadequate.


Social Movement Affirmative Action Mental Health Issue Broad Definition Reasonable Accommodation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.George Washington University Law SchoolWashingtonUSA

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