Disability VS Illness

At what point does an illness become a disability?  For me it is pretty simple – when your body can not do, or be, something “normal”.

To look at it, my body is perfectly formed.  Not only can I “do” everything, but given my hypermobility, I can “do” everything better than most people.  My body can not “be” normal however – I can technically do the splits, but not without dislocating a hip.  Thus, it can not “be” normal.

Someone, like my aunt, who has a leg shorter than another due to polio, has a disability as her body cannot walk (“do” something) normally.

Sounds simple right?  And yet it is so very very complicated.

Someone with Dysautonomia also has a body that can not “do” something normal – Dysautonomia is a disorder of the autonomic nervous system, and affects things such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestive tract etc.  Dysautonomia can be mild to moderate (such as my own case – I can not handle heat very well, and get quite feint and dizzy regularly to the point of not being able to stand very long etc).  My own dysautonomia is not a disability – alone, it would not stop me from living a “normal” life.

For someone like Michelle however, who has a more severe case, it IS a disability.  It physically stops her from living a normal life.  There are things she may want to do with her life that she physically can not do due to her illness/disability.

Jen Morris decided to put forth her views on this subject in an article posted on Ramp Up.  She seems to be complaining that many “illnesses” that are really not that different from disabilities, will not be included when Disability Care Australia (DCA) rolls out over the next six years.

I think she is wrong.  I also think a lot of people claim to have a disability when they do not (not necessarily her, but certainly others).

A Fair Go For Everyone

Now before I get into it, I want to be clear – I think we need to stop using diagnosis as a qualifier.  Period.  I don’t care much for labels.

If you need a wheelchair, then you need a wheelchair.  If you can’t work then you can’t work.  If you need someone to help you have a shower, then you need someone to help you have a shower.  And the price we pay for living in a war free, and largely crime free, society, is paying taxes that go to helping those less fortunate and in need.

But We Do Not Live In A World Without Labels 😦

Sad, but true.

In her article, Jen focuses on current definitions of disability.

The Disability Discrimination Act explicitly includes infectious diseases, such as HIV, within the definition of disability. Yet Medicare classifies it as a ‘chronic disease’ for the purposes of Chronic Disease Management Plans. It is unclear where DisabilityCare stands.

However, if you read the requirements in the National Disability Scheme Insurance Act 2013:

(1)  A person meets the disability requirements if:

(a)  the person has a disability that is attributable to one or more intellectual, cognitive, neurological, sensory or physical impairments or to one or more impairments attributable to a psychiatric condition; and
(b)  the impairment or impairments are, or are likely to be, permanent; and
(c)  the impairment or impairments result in substantially reduced functional capacity to undertake, or psychosocial functioning in undertaking, one or more of the following activities:
(i)  communication;
(ii)  social interaction;
(iii)  learning;
(iv)  mobility;
(v)  self‑care;
(vi)  self‑management; and
(d)  the impairment or impairments affect the person’s capacity for social and economic participation; and
(e)  the person is likely to require support under the National Disability Insurance Scheme for the person’s lifetime.

(2)  For the purposes of subsection (1), an impairment or impairments that vary in intensity may be permanent, and the person is likely to require support under the National Disability Insurance Scheme for the person’s lifetime, despite the variation.

DisabilityCare Australia is not going to care whether or not you have HIV, nor will it care how another government department classifies what you have.  If your particular case meets the above requirements, then you are in.  Call it whatever the fuck you want.

In this way, DCA is fantastic – it finally sees the end of discrimination according to labels as opposed to need.

It may seem that given my own circumstances, and the fact that I will undoubtedly qualify, while others with “illnesses” will not, allow me to not know or understand or give a shit about the circumstances of those with “medical conditions”.  So I would like to state that I have areas in my own life where I will NOT qualify.  Seriously – half of my psychologists appointments are due to Aspergers (will qualify) and half are due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (will not qualify).  My sleep apnea will NOT qualify – it is still going to take me years to save up and buy my own $2000+ CPAP machine.  This house is rife with allergies, asthma and skin conditions – none of which are disabilities and all of which cost a fortune at the chemist.

And I am ok with chronic medical conditions not qualifying.  They are not, after all, disabilities.

If you have a flat-out disability, or even a medical condition that is disabling, you will be able to access DisabilityCare.

If you have a medical condition that does not impose an impairment on your life, then you will not.  And that sucks for you, as it does for me.  But you do not have a disability even under liberal definitions.

Whether or not the federal government takes over the state health systems (responsible now and in the future for medical conditions) is a matter of politics.  For now however, it seems they will not, and so DisabilityCare is for people with a disability.  Are there other groups that are missing out?  Hell yes!  The aged care system is pathetic.  Employment Services are a contradiction in terms.  Don’t get me started on education, department of children’s services, single parents, refugees etc.  And yes – state health care is at best, next to non-existent, and at worst, abusive.  I have been waiting six months now for a neurologists appointment to find out if I have Multiple Sclerosis.  Not fun.

Healthcare however, is a whole other ball game.  Pissed off that healthcare is under-funded?  Lobby your state government.  (Let me know when, and I will come along.  Healthcare is drastically under-funded across the country.)

However make no mistake – this is a DISABILITY scheme – not a free-for-all-for-everyone-that-needs-a-hand-scheme.

Disability consumer and activist. Pissed off since 1995... Mad as a hatter since way before that.

Tagged with:
Posted in Disability, Personal
2 comments on “Disability VS Illness
  1. Jeshyr says:

    I hope very much that you are right, but I suspect that you are wrong. The problem that I see comes here, quote from what you quoted:

    (1) A person meets the disability requirements if:
    (a) the person has a disability that is attributable to one or more intellectual, cognitive, neurological, sensory or physical impairments or to one or more impairments attributable to a psychiatric condition; and

    In the past, even though all the other conditions b, c, d, e, have been satisfied, government bureaucracies have been guilty of saying to people: “you don’t have a disability, you have a medical condition causing these symptoms, therefore you aren’t disabled”.

    You also wrote:

    And I am ok with chronic medical conditions not qualifying. They are not, after all, disabilities.

    What makes chronic medical conditions “not disabilities” though? If my symptoms were identical when I had a “chronic medical condition” label and when I have a “disability” label than the distinction seems pretty much like crazy labelling, rather than anything real.

    As I wrote in the comments on Jen’s RampUp piece the craziness of “your disablement is due to a medical condition and therefore you don’t qualify for disability services” is something that I have personally met a lot. I spent nearly 20 years with my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome being misdiagnosed as ME/CFS/Fibro, which is generally considered a “chronic illness” rather than “a disability”. My symptoms were identical to what they are now, the prognosis was identical, and the cause of those symptoms was the same, but when I got re-labelled as having EDS I magically had 95% less trouble accessing disability services.

    This is not a situation unique to me – many chronic medical conditions ARE disabling just as much as disabilities which are not medical conditions. Arthritis. COPD. Fibromyalgia. Lupus. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Emphysema. Narcolepsy. The list is pretty much endless so I’ll stop there…

    If DCA correctly assists people with disabling medical conditions then I will be very happy to eat my words! But in the mean time, it IS a trap we need to be wary that DCA may fall into, because pretty much every other disability support system in Australia at the current time has fallen into it to some degree or other.

    • “””…government bureaucracies have been guilty of saying to people: “you don’t have a disability, you have a medical condition causing these symptoms, therefore you aren’t disabled”.”””

      I know – I have been there myself. Recently, even.

      I don’t think the wording allows for the distinction here (between “disability” and “medical condition”). In other government departments, they have lists of what is a disability and what isn’t (for DSQ for example, ADHD is not a disability whereas ASD is – even though kids may suffer similarly. I myself have only just been approved under mental health – PTSD does not qualify until you hit the point of being suicidal/self-harming). With DCA, there is a list of disabilities that will automatically qualify someone, however there is no list that disqualifies someone on the basis that their condition is “medical” rather than “disability”. To receive the Disability Support Pension, you do not even need a diagnosis – I am hoping (and feel that the wording points to) this being the same with DCA.

      You are right in that until it all happens – we won’t know for sure. And we do need to keep on top of it and make sure that organisations etc apply the law, and not their own definitions etc (out of habit, or their own sense of “I am god”). I know that there is a history – I just don’t think that that history will repeat itself here as a matter of course.

      But like you – if I am wrong, I will be the first one yelling about it 🙂

      Just to be clear too – personally and selfishly – I would love it if they would include anything that is “lifelong” or whatever. I would love for it to pay for my CPAP machine, and the regular “bits” (filters and hoses and masks) which cost a fortune. I would love for it to pay for my families Ventolin, anti-histamines, skin creams, and special bath stuff. Our medical expenses at the chemist (etc) are around $2000 – $3000 a year out of pocket and DCA will pick up maybe $500 of this – the rest is due to “medical conditions”. I just feel that so long as we are distinguishing (and again, in a perfect world I don’t think we should be – there should be a one-stop-shop if only because it’s fucking easier!!! *grin*), the lines are pretty clear.

      And if someone such as Michelle, does not qualify at the end of the day, when it reaches wherever she is – I’m going to be screaming blue fucking murder! Don’t you worry about that! 🙂

Please feel free to comment...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Pissed off since 1995. Mad as a hatter since way before that.

Topics I Write About
Follow Linda Mad Hatter on WordPress.com

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 620 other followers

SBS Insight – Psychopath

Watch Linda on SBS Insight (a bit part, and kinda embarrassing *grin*)

Autism Aspergers Magazine

Linda was a contributor for Autism Aspergers Network Magazine!


We are raising money to cover the boys medical and disability expenses. ALL funds raised go into their own account, to pay for these expenses. Things such as speech therapy, occuptational therapy, psychology, chaperoned sport and social activities, and special equipment etc. I hate having to do this, but hey, if you don't like it, then give me a job ;-). Please click on the photo to go to their GoFundMe page, and thank you for your time (and I do hope, your generous donation *cheeky grin*)!!!

LindaMadHatter at FaceBook

Click the image and follow me on FB!

Versatile Blogger Award
Awesome Blossom Award
%d bloggers like this: