And wow, what an emotionally-charged debate…
My first thought was, that’s a tough one with “invisible illnesses” on the whole. If we haven’t developed any complications, we “diabetics” don’t look or feel disabled, do we? But sometimes we do require special accommodations at work, or while traveling. And sometimes people react very negatively to our disease, even to the point of actively excluding us from certain jobs or privileges.
Still, quite a few folks over at TuDiabetes said NO, diabetes should not be considered a disability, as long as it’s well-controlled and the person is thriving. They argue that a body becomes officially disabled only when complications like blindness or amputation enter the picture.
Others were incensed by this, arguing that people with diabetes need proactive protection by the law, not least because discrimination is often so irrational — like in Steve’s case, where he was perfectly able to perform his job but got booted for being diabetic anyway, or with diabetic children at school.
A lot of it comes down to the question, how do you define a disability? One civil rights specialist points out that the law uses a three prong test. Covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act or The Rehabilitation Act is anyone who:
(1) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities,
(2) has a record of such an impairment, or
(3) is regarded as having such an impairment.*
So I check out the link, and found this:
“In 1987 the United States Supreme Court stated, and the Congress reiterated that, ‘society’s myths and fears about disability and disease are as handicapping as are the physical limitations that flow from actual impairments.’
“For example, a person with mild or well-controlled diabetes is barred from participating in sports at school because of his/her diabetes, despite being able to safely participate.
Even when a person does not have a disability (i.e., their diabetes does not substantially limit a major life activity) if s/he is still being treated as though s/he does, they are covered under the ADA definition …”
Reading this actually makes me feel grateful. Because for me, the upshot is what Katrina said:
“I don’t want to think of myself as disabled and don’t want to be looked at that way either. At the same time, if there is ever situation where I am discriminated against — I’d like to have the law on my side.”
Wouldn’t you, too?