Islets of Hope  Is diabetes a disability?

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Edited 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 and Civil Rights Laws
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973
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Filing a complaint under The Rehabilitation Act

To file a complaint you must contact an equal employment opportunity counselor at the agency where the discrimination occurred within forty-five (45) days of the discrimination.

The complaint is then investigated by the receiving agency.  The employee filing the complaint can ask for a hearing to be conducted by an administrative law judge from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or for a final decision by the agency.

The employee can also appeal to the EEOC and then go to court or can go directly to court.


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In October of 2005 a class-action lawsuit was filed by four families in Northern California against California schools aserting that children with diabetes were protected under federal (and state) disability laws. 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).

One of the specific areas established in the outcome of the lawsuit was that children with diabetes who classify as being disabled (all those with type 1 diabetes and some with type 2) are entitled under IDEA to Section 504 Plans, and for those whose diabetes affects classroom learning, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) as well.

Summary of The Rehabilitation Act civil rights coverage by Section and where to file a complaint (chart)

The following chart summarizes the different sections under The Rehabilitation Act, what is covered, and where and how to file a complaint.

Section and coverage

Where to file a complaint or
find more information

Section 501 requires adherence to affirmative action practices (laws aimed at establishing the same percentage of minority group members and women at all levels of the workplaces and unions as there are in the general population) and nondiscrimination in employment by Federal agencies of the executive branch.


To obtain more information or to file a complaint, employees should contact their agency's Equal Employment Opportunity Office.  For the appropriate EEOC field office in your geographic area, contact:

(800) 669-4000 (voice)
(800) 669-6820 (TTY)

Publications and information on EEOC-enforced laws may be obtained by calling:

(800) 669-3362 (voice)
(800) 800-3302 (TTY)

Section 503 requires adherence to affirmative action practices and prohibits employment discrimination by Federal government contractors and subcontractors with contracts of more than $10,000.

Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Room C-3325
Washington, D.C.  20210
(202) 693-0106 (voice/relay)

Section 504 mandates that "no qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under" any program or activity that either receives Federal financial assistance or is conducted by any Executive agency or the United States Postal Service.

Agencies that provide Federal financial assistance also have section 504 regulations covering entities that receive Federal aid. Requirements common to these regulations include reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities; program accessibility; accessible new construction and alterations and also covers communication accommodates for people who have hearing or vision disabilities.

Each Federal agency is responsible for enforcing its own Section 504 regulations. Section 504 may also be enforced through private lawsuits. It is not necessary to file a complaint with a Federal agency or to receive a "right-to-sue" letter before going to court.

For information on how to file 504 complaints with the appropriate agency, contact:

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Disability Rights Section - NYAV
Washington, D.C.  20530
(800) 514-0301 (voice)
(800) 514-0383 (TTY)

Section 508 establishes requirements for electronic and information technology developed, maintained, procured, or used by the Federal government. It also requires Federal electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public.

Accessibility-related software or peripheral devices in order to use systems that comply with Section 508 may or may not be required by employers.

For more information on section 508, contact:

U.S. General Services Administration
Center for IT Accommodation (CITA)
1800 F Street, N.W.
Room 1234, MC:MKC
Washington, DC  20405-0001
(202) 501-4906 (voice)
(202) 501-2010 (TTY)

U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F Street, N.W., Suite 1000
Washington, DC  20004-1111
800-872-2253 (voice)
800-993-2822 (TTY)


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Page Updated 08/15/2007