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Professor Doron Dorfman: Being Anti-Mask Doesn't Make You Disabled

Posted on Thursday 5/21/2020
Doron Dorfman

Being Anti-Mask Doesn't Make You Disabled

(Newsday | May 21, 2020) “If you’re not going to wear a mask, you take a paper that has the Americans for [sic] Disabilities Act on it, and no one is allowed to ask you why you cannot wear a mask. So you can say that you have a medical condition. And the medical condition might be that wearing a mask is strangling your sense of free speech...” --- Dr. Christiane Northrup

Dr. Christiane Northrup’s recent viral video that included those comments exposed a larger phenomenon: the blatant attempt to miscast disability law under the guise of protecting individual liberty.

And the cruel irony of this phenomenon? Anti-maskers are attempting to use disability law in ways that put disability communities at greater risk. Now that New York State has partially opened, these issues are more urgent than ever.

For six years, I’ve studied the fear of the disability con: the widespread moral panic that people fake disabilities to gain unfair advantage from extra time on exams to cutting lines in theme parks to obtaining a favorable parking spot.

While the 30-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has helped the disability rights movement increase awareness of disability, perception of disability in courtrooms and the public sphere remain largely stuck in the past. Fears of disability fraud date to 19th century Ugly Laws that prohibited “unsightly” disabled beggars from appearing in public for fear they might elicit sympathy or spare dimes. Although the ADA was intended to be transformative, pervasive assumptions about disability have proven more difficult to shake ...

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