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 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).


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Diabetes and Civil Rights Laws
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
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Your right to file a grievance:  ADA protection against retaliation or coercion

People who exercise their rights under the ADA or individuals who assist others in exercising their rights are protected against retaliation or coercion. This includes any form of retaliation or coercion including threats, intimidation, denial or services, access, or benefits, or interference.

Some examples of retaliation or coercion that would be in violation of ADA laws include:

  • A woman who is blind from diabetes wants to use a service dog.  Her landlord allows other tenants to have small dogs, but will not let the blind woman have a dog because it would be considered a large-breed dog.  The blind woman sues the landlord.  Regardless of the outcome of the court’s decision, the landlord could not evict the tenant on the basis of a complaint being filed.
  • A public school refuses to let a child with diabetes attend a field trip because the child’s parents filed grievance proceedings involving the lack of a school nurse.
  • A restaurant may not refuse to serve a customer because he filed an ADA complaint against the restaurant for refusing to let him test his child’s blood sugars or inject insulin in the restaurant.
  • An employer may not refuse to hire a qualified individual because s/he encouraged another individual to file an ADA complaint against the employer.


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Page Updated 08/15/2007