Should obesity be considered a disability?
Yesterday, I read an interesting article in the Chicago Tribune. The paper’s editorial board shared their opinion on the thought of considering obesity as a disability. The consensus was a resounding negative to the notion.
“The expansion is also at odds with the basic idea of the ADA: empowering people who are the unfortunate victims of fate. Obesity is usually the result of individual decisions, and it can be ameliorated by individual decisions. Those facts argue for leaving the government out of this realm.”
As someone who has practically been overweight, technically obese, most of his life I took a particular interest in this article. Naturally you’d think that I would argue a rebuttal. The only problem is that I for the most part agree with them. Obesity, for most people (myself included), is a choice; granted there are many sociological, psychological and emotional reasons one could decide to overeat. For those of us who simply do not exercise adequate, self-control I do not think we should be given compensation for our personal failure. And yes, I deem my own weight issues as a failure. I am not resolute in accepting my fate though.
I think if one is obese for a long time then there are certain complications that can arise from such a prolonged unhealthy state. Therefore, there are some instances where I think labeling it a disability would be justified, but only if the candidate met the qualifications set by the ADA. I just disagree with the notion of a blanket declaration that obesity should be simply distinguished as a disability.
I think some people can argue that obesity, more specifically over-eating, is a mental addiction. I am not sure of what government sponsored programs are available for such people. There doesn’t seem to be support for those overweight. Typically we are ridiculed both in the media and sadly at times within the construct of social gatherings. Furthermore, I believe that obesity, for the vast majority, is a choice. Do I want to be overweight? Hell no. But have I successfully fixed the problem? Obviously not.
In addition, I think the article brings up a good point:
“If employers must accommodate the requirements of obese workers, are they also entitled to adopt policies to prevent workers from becoming obese? Could they require all employees to make regular gym visits, or run 15 miles a week, to keep their jobs? Once companies are forced to make changes to benefit individuals with serious weight problems, they will have strong incentives to meddle in personal lifestyles.”
I do not want to live in a society where my employer “meddles” in my personal lifestyles. Do you?
Twitter: @adrakontaidis & @talkrealdebate