Diabetes and Discrimination


By: Nicole Johnson

Recently, I had a phone call from a friend seeking advice on whether or notto hire a nanny who has diabetes. I was shocked.

Why was this even an issue? In her interview, the young woman mentioned thatshe wears an insulin pump. She is clearly motivated, disciplined and attentive,as evidenced by her intensive approach to diabetes self-care. These are idealtraits in a caregiver. But that doesn’t change the fact that even my friendsare 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 manyplaces. We see discrimination in schools, the workplace, even in families. Yes,you read that right—in families. Discrimination, to me, occurs any time I amtold that I can’t do something because of my condition. When I am not given afair opportunity, I am discriminated against.

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

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

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

The diabetes support doesn’t end in the courts. Cari Dominguez, the chairof the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), also cares aboutdiscrimination 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 iscomforting to know that in the most severe instances, there are people willingto fight for the rights of those of us with this condition. However, we have anobligation in this struggle as well. Ignorance and fear are the main causes ofdiscrimination. We must constantly do our part and use our voices to educate ortake the lead. If we see or hear something that isn’t quite right, we need toreport it or right it ourselves. That is what I had to do with my friend who washiring a nanny.

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



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