Islets of Hope  Is diabetes a disability?  What civil rights laws protect diabetics?

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Written by Lahle Wolfe

Source:  Publication PA-04-2006; Revised 12/06; Published by Islets of Hope, Diabetes and civil rights law: "An overview of your legal right to equal access to programs, benefits, opportunity, accommodations, education, and employment"  Read full publication (.pdf)


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diabetes legal information education and daycare facility laws

Diabetes and Civil Rights Laws
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
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The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person’s disability, which may include diabetes, in private employment, State and local government, the United States Congress, public accommodations, commercial facilities including restaurants, transportation, and telecommunications.  In addition to the ADA most states also have their own laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of a person’s disability.  Some state laws apply to smaller employers than the ADA (the ADA laws apply to employers with 15 or more employees) as well as offer other protections in addition to those available under the ADA.

ADA Title III: Public Accommodations

Title III covers businesses and nonprofit service providers that are public accommodations, privately operated entities offering certain types of courses and examinations, privately operated transportation, and commercial facilities. Public accommodations are private entities who own, lease, lease to, or operate facilities such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels, movie theaters, private schools, convention centers, doctors' offices, homeless shelters, transportation depots, zoos, funeral homes, day care centers, and recreation facilities including sports stadiums and fitness clubs. Transportation services provided by private entities are also covered by Title III.

Some specific areas covered under ADA Title III include:

  • Public accommodations must comply with basic nondiscrimination requirements that prohibit exclusion, segregation, and unequal treatment.
  • They also must comply with specific requirements related to architectural standards for new and altered buildings; reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures; effective communication with people with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities; and other access requirements.
  • Public accommodations must remove barriers in existing buildings where it is easy to do so without much difficulty or expense, given the public accommodation's resources.
  • Courses and examinations related to professional, educational, or trade-related applications, licensing, certifications, or credentialing must be provided in a place and manner accessible to people with disabilities, or alternative accessible arrangements must be offered.
  • Commercial facilities, such as factories and warehouses, must comply with the ADA's architectural standards for new construction and alterations.


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A recent and disturbing decision regarding ADA interpretation was handed down by the 9th Circuit court.   The court found that a blind woman with a service dog had no claim against the ferry that refused to sell her a "first class" ticket on the ferry, and made her ride in the tourist class.  The ferry had a strict "no animals" policy in first class, at the request of some unnamed frequent passenger who requested a dander-free area (it was not determined if the unnamed passenger was even on the ferry that day and did s/he have a disability).  The ferry company changed the policy two weeks after refusing the blind woman and her dog a ticket in first class, but she sued anyway, and lost.
The court held that the federal ADA regs do not require that access be made when it would create a direct threat to other people, and that it was reasonable for the ticket seller to make a snap judgment not to sell the ticket.  The court said that the ADA probably did require that the policy be changed, but that the 1-time decision was not unreasonable, and would not support a claim.  Judge Hall dissented. 

Lockett v. Catalina Channel Exp., Inc. C.A.9 (Cal),2007.  United States Court of Appeals,Ninth Circuit; Argued and Submitted June 4, 2007.   Filed Aug. 9, 2007.


Definition of a qualified individual with a disability under Title II and Title III

Purpose:  To protect the rights of qualified persons with disabilities to participate in, and benefit from, services and programs offered by a public or private entity.

 Just as in the provisions of Title I definitions, protections under Title II and Title III are only afforded to “qualified” individuals with disabilities (not every person with a disability is necessarily qualified).

For a person with a disability to be covered under Title III they must have a disability and qualify by meeting the essential eligibility requirements with or without:

  • Reasonable modifications to rules, policies or practices;
  • Auxiliary (communications) aids or services; or
  • Removal of architectural, communications or transportation barriers.

The "essential eligibility requirements" for participation in many activities may be minimal, such as simply requesting information about a program.  In this case, simply requesting the information would satisfy “essential eligibility requirements.”  However, to qualify for other programs may require more specific criteria.  For example, to enter medical school a person may be required to have first successfully completed certain academic courses.


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Page Updated 08/15/2007