Diabetes and Discrimination

Why Does It Still Exist?

| Sep 1, 2005

Recently, I had a phone call from a friend seeking advice on whether or not to hire a nanny who has diabetes. I was shocked.

Why was this even an issue? In her interview, the young woman mentioned that she wears an insulin pump. She is clearly motivated, disciplined and attentive, as evidenced by her intensive approach to diabetes self-care. These are ideal traits in a caregiver. But that doesn’t change the fact that even my friends are unsure about what is and is not discrimination when it comes to diabetes.

Discrimination Against Diabetics Is Everywhere

Discrimination against people with diabetes exists in many forms and in many places. We see discrimination in schools, the workplace, even in families. Yes, you read that right—in families. Discrimination, to me, occurs any time I am told that I can’t do something because of my condition. When I am not given a fair opportunity, I am discriminated against.

There is really nothing more infuriating. In fact, this is the reason I wound up at the Miss America Pageant in the fall of 1998. Someone told me that a person with diabetes, wearing a device, would never be allowed to participate in the pageant. I decided to find out for myself.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has taken a hard stand against discrimination. They even have an entire department dedicated to legal advocacy. Over the last several years, they have tried and won cases against discrimination in jails, schools, workplaces, even in social settings.

One of the most famous cases dealt with employment. Jeff Kapche, a San Antonio police detective, won a federal appeals victory after reaching the Fifth Circuit twice, and he was finally allowed to be promoted to police officer, a position he had been denied because of his diabetes.

The diabetes support doesn’t end in the courts. Cari Dominguez, the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), also cares about discrimination and diabetes: She has diabetes and wears an insulin pump.

People Are Willing to Fight for You

As the resources for living well with diabetes continue to expand, it is comforting to know that in the most severe instances, there are people willing to fight for the rights of those of us with this condition. However, we have an obligation in this struggle as well. Ignorance and fear are the main causes of discrimination. We must constantly do our part and use our voices to educate or take the lead. If we see or hear something that isn’t quite right, we need to report it or right it ourselves. That is what I had to do with my friend who was hiring a nanny.

If you need the help of an attorney, you can contact the legal department of the ADA at (800) DIABETES. They have more than 250 attorneys in a network committed to helping solve legal issues for people with diabetes.

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Categories: Diabetes, Diabetes, Discrimination, Insulin, Insulin Pumps

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Sep 1, 2005

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