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)

In August 2007, California courts rendered a landmark decision by legally establishing that children with diabetes were disabled according to both state and federal legal definitions and therefore, have protected rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1973 as well as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

This included the right to a Section 504 Plan and an IEP when classroom learning was affected by diabetes.


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Diabetes and Civil Rights Laws
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
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What is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

IDEA was originally named the Education for All Handicapped Children Act.  In 1990, it was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDAE) and mandates that school districts provide every student with a disability with a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE).  Not only are districts required to test students at a young age to identify possible disabilities they must also provide children with disabilities with a specialized curriculum, services and the assistive technologies they need to reach their educational goals.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is a federal civil rights law enacted to protect persons with disabilities against discrimination for reasons related to their disabilities.  Section 504 does not guarantee that a child with a disability will receive an individualized educational program that is designed to meet the child's individual educational needs.  If your child requires special academic accommodations at school, you will need to request an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  This request needs to be done in writing.

Even though IDEA guarantees FAPE to children with disabilities, not all children with a disability or impairment automatically qualifies for special education services under the IDEA. Only children with a disability who required special education services will qualify for special education and related services under the IDEA.  However, even when a child may not qualify for special services under IDEA s/he may still receive protections under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

While it is the school’s responsibility to identify children, parents often must make requests for evaluation services.  It is important that you do not rely strictly on the law and schools to offer services for your child.  Even more than in the work place, you will often have to work hard to assert your rights in schools.

Public schools receive federal financial support for offering IEPs to students.  However, they do not receive any funds for Section 504 Plans.  Do not let your school tell you that your child with diabetes is not entitled to a 504 Plan or try to persaude you that an IEP or health plan will suffice.  Children with diabetes, who require medical care and supervision while at school, always, always, always should have a 504 Plan in addition to any other plan the school may offer.

Key Aspects of IDEA


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Page Updated 08/15/2007