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Ask MNCDHH: How Do I Know if I Have a Disability?

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10/22/2019 10:44:46 AM

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Question: I am 65 and employed. I have several disabilities which are minor. I consider myself a supporter or concerned individual, rather than someone with a real disability. As I age, some disabilities may become worse. How will I know if something is bad enough that I am disabled? Thanks!

This is a great question! There is no black and white answer to when a person has a disability. Rather, it is very much a gray area. However, here are a few things for you to consider. 

You can look at how the law has defined disability.

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a person with a disability, as a “person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.”
  • The Social Security Office will provide disability benefits to individuals who "are no longer able to perform a 'substantial' amount of work as the result of a physical or mental impairment that is expected to last at least 12 months."

You can look at how a dictionary has defined disability.

  • The Merriam-Webster online dictionary describes 'disability' as, "a physical, mental, cognitive, or developmental condition that impairs, interferes with, or limits a person's ability to engage in certain tasks or actions or participate in typical daily activities and interactions."

Disability is also a personal identity. You can do a self-assessment as frequently as you like. Ask yourself,

  • Is (are) my disability(ies) impacting my life in a significant way?
  • Are there tools and resources out there that can help me navigate through life easier?

If you answer yes to these questions, or questions that are similar to this, you can decide if you identify yourself as a person with a disability.

While the law has defined qualifications so that they can screen who is eligible for services and accommodations, you maintain personal power to assessing your needs and identity. 

When you are ready, please reach out for help and resources. There are many in the state of Minnesota. We suggest starting with the following websites:

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