Is Tourette Syndrome a disability?

Tourette affects day to day life. But is that enough for it to be considered a disability? Well, it really does depend on a couple of factors.

Tourette can be considered a disability. It is acknowledged as a disability in the UK, USA and many other nations, but does vary between nations. It can also depend on the severity of tics.

Understanding whether or not Tourette Syndrome is a disability is very important. Especially when the condition is debilitating and can lead to discrimination.

Definition of a disability

OxfordLanguages defines a disability as:

1. a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities.

2. a disadvantage or handicap, especially one imposed or recognized by the law


The first definition relates to how the person is affected by disability.

The second definition mentions law. This is important as Tourette being a problem doesn’t necessarily mean it is recognised as debilitating by governments and employers.

Does Tourette fit this definition?

Tourette is indeed a condition that affects movement, senses and activities. For some more than others.

Some people struggle with activities such as driving, cooking or playing sports. Others are fine with such activities, but repetitive tics cause injuries or long term damage to the body. This can impair movement.

It is easy to understand the limitations as a sufferer. But the limitations being recognised by authorities is another challenge altogether.

Tourette is considered a disability in many countries

According to Tourette Association of America, many Americans ‘are able to receive disability benefits’.

Tourette’s-Action in the UK states that ‘TS is considered a disability under UK law, which prohibits people with the condition being discriminated against because of it.’

They have a useful factsheet available to read in the link above if you want to read it.

According to, New Zealand’s Ministry of Health does not recognise Tourette Syndrome as a disability.

This was a shock to me, however a reminder that Tourette’s awareness is so important.

Some countries consider TS a disability if it affects day to day life.

This leads me to believe that it is sometimes considered case by case, similar to driving with Tourette’s. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all.

Do some people get more priority than others?

Those with severe tics will no doubt get priority.

For example, my tics are fairly mild. I nod my head, blink often and make humming/grunting noises. Some days are worse than others, but I wouldn’t consider myself at danger at work nor would I say I have problems with movement or mobility.

Sometimes when I’m driving I have the urge to look in the rear view mirror and blink repeatedly, but I was still able to pass my driving test.

It would be harder for me to prove that I needed disability benefits, if I believed I did.

Is Tourette’s a disability? Conclusion

In many countries, Tourette is considered a disability. This depends however on the country.

Even in countries that currently recognise the condition, whether or not a persons is considered to have a disability may depend on severity. Tics vary from person to person and many nations may consider it case-by-case.

With increased research and awareness, more countries will learn of how debilitating Tourette can be.

Many regions already do. This will only increase over time.


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