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 legal information education and daycare facility laws

Diabetes and Civil Rights Laws
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973
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What is The Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The Rehabilitation Act is a Federal civil rights law that provides similar protections as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) related to federal employment.  Different sections of the Rehabilitation Act cover different areas of disability rights and protection.  The Rehabilitation Act also has different procedures than the ADA and applies to the federal government, and most exclusively to those in the Executive Branch.

Students with diabetes are entitled to a Section 504 plan to address their needs at school.  Additionally, students with diabetes may also qualify for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).


    “The Rehabilitation Act is the Federal legislation that authorizes the formula grant programs of vocational rehabilitation, supported employment, independent living, and client assistance. It also authorizes a variety of training and service discretionary grants administered by the Rehabilitation Services Administration.

    The Act authorizes research activities that are administered by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research and the work of the National Council on Disability. The Act also includes a variety of provisions focused on rights, advocacy and protections for individuals with disabilities.”

Source:  United States Department of Education; Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.  12/31/06.  web:


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The importance of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1974 for diabetics

In these amendments, it was clarified in prong three; “(iii)  is regarded as having such an impairment" that even if the actual mental or physical condition itself is not an impairment (i.e., your diabetes is well-controlled and you do not need special accommodations), having rights and access denied as a result of negative public reaction to the person with the condition, is an impairment and therefore, could be qualified as having a disability.

An example includes a person with an extreme facial abnormality who can perform a job without accommodations.  Because the condition is simply cosmetic it is not considered an impairment.  However, the person may still qualify as disabled if no one will hire or promote them simply because of their deformity under prong three of the ADA.

This third prong is very important to people with diabetes because they are often shunned or banned to dirty bathrooms to provide critical medical care for themselves.  This third prong protects against public and employer ignorance that seeks to restrict the necessary medical care a person with diabetes requires.


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Key purposes of The Rehabilitation Act

 (1)  to empower individuals with disabilities to maximize employment, economic
       self‑sufficiency, independence, and inclusion and integration into society, through:

            (A)  statewide workforce investment systems implemented in accordance with title I
                   of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 that include, as integral components,
                   comprehensive and coordinated state‑of‑the‑art programs of vocational
            (B)  independent living centers and services;
            (C)  research;
            (D)  training;
            (E)  demonstration projects; and
            (F)  the guarantee of equal opportunity; and

 (2)  to ensure that the Federal Government plays a leadership role in promoting the
       employment of individuals with disabilities, especially individuals with significant
       disabilities, and in assisting States and providers of services in fulfilling the aspirations
       of such individuals with disabilities for meaningful and gainful employment and
       independent living.

Source:  United States Department of Education; Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. 12/31/06.  web:


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The Rehabilitation Act stated policy

It is the policy of the United States that all programs, projects, and activities receiving assistance under this Act shall be carried out in a manner consistent with the principles of‑‑

 (1)  respect for individual dignity, personal responsibility, self‑determination, and pursuit of
        meaningful careers, based on informed choice, of individuals with disabilities;

 (2)  respect for the privacy, rights, and equal access (including the use of accessible
       formats), of the individuals;

 (3)  inclusion, integration, and full participation of the individuals;

(4)  support for the involvement of an individual's representative if an individual with a
      disability requests, desires, or needs such support; and

 (5)  support for individual and systemic advocacy and community involvement.

Source:  United States Department of Education; Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.  12/31/06.  web:


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