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, are have protected rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1973 as well as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).


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

Key aspects of IDEA include:

  • Mandates that all children with disabilities have equal access to free, appropriate public education.
  • Emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet unique needs for persons with disabilities to prepare them for employment and independent living.
  • Provides funds to assist states in the education of students with disabilities. 
  • Requires that states ensure the rights of children with disabilities and their parents are protected.
  • Assists states in providing early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families.
  • Applies to children ages 3 through 21 who need special education and related services because of a disabling condition.  (Note:  States, in agreement with local education agencies, may use the category of developmental delay to serve children ages three through nine to avoid mislabeling children.)
  • Requires schools to conduct an evaluation to determine whether the child has a disability and what the child's educational needs are. The evaluation must use testing materials free from racial or cultural bias and presented in the child's native language or means of communicating.

For more information about IDEA:

Islets of Hope for persons with diabetes.  IOH Publication PA-07-2006, “Diabetes at school:  Your civil rights in public and private schools  and child care facilities.”  Download:

California Association of Family Empowerment centers.  Web:

Disability Rights & Education Fund (DREDF).  This organization has actively and successfully sued school districts and states in violation of diabetes civil rights laws.  Web:

United States Department of Education – Special Education & Rehabilitation Services.

Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.  Offers complete text of IDEA.  Web:

The National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY). Publications list available at  P. O. Box 1492, Washington, D.C.  20013. Telephone: 1-800-695-0285 (voice/TTY) and 202-884-8200 (voice/TTY). Web:

The Parent Training and Information Center .  To locate the center in your state contact NICHCY (above) or on the web:

FAPE Project, 5 PACER Center, Inc. 1-888-248-0822. Web site: e-mail:


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Page Updated 08/15/2007