Is Diabetes a Disability?

Diabetes is a complex condition that prevents the body from maintaining healthy levels of glucose in the blood.

Under most laws, both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are considered a disability. This ensures that there are rights and protections under the law to prevent those with diabetes from being discriminated against. This can apply in the workplace, at school, in public places, and in interactions with law enforcement.

Diabetes at school

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Diabetes as a Disability

In the United States, diabetes is considered a disability under federal law. This is in acknowledgment of the fact that diabetes limits the function of the endocrine system at a substantial level.

Invisible Disability

Defining diabetes as a disability under federal law also acknowledges that diabetes can be an "invisible" disability and can be present even if a person with diabetes is healthy and their condition is well managed.

In the United States, relevant federal laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act are in place to protect those with disabilities.

In 2008, changes were made to the Americans with Disabilities Act under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008. Changes to that act emphasized that diabetes would virtually always be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Diabetes Rights and Protections

Those living with diabetes deserve fair treatment in:

  • School
  • The workplace
  • Public places
  • Dealings with law enforcement

Rights and protections for people with diabetes are in place to ensure this occurs.

School

Diabetes requires 24/7 management. For children living with diabetes, this includes time spent at:

  • School
  • Child care
  • Field trips
  • Camp
  • Other activities

Under federal law, children have the right to receive diabetes and other care they need in order to participate in school life the same as any other child. Under federal law, schools are required to provide:

  • A trained staff member who can administer insulin and glucagon and monitor blood sugar levels
  • A trained staff member or members who can provide care specific to diabetes during all school activities including field trips and extracurricular activities
  • Permit capable students to self-manage their diabetes at any time and in any place

Under federal law, schools cannot:

  • Insist family members attend school to care for the needs of a student with diabetes
  • Transfer students with diabetes to a different school in order to receive appropriate care
  • Stop students who have diabetes from attending any school-sponsored activity, including field trips and sports days

State laws can be complicated and can be unclear regarding who should care for a child with diabetes at school. Some states give more protections than others.

Federal vs. State Laws

Regardless of any state laws, children with diabetes are still protected under federal laws.

Work

Under federal law, those with diabetes have rights and protections in the workplace.

Reasonable Accomondations

Reasonable accommodations must be given to those with diabetes. This could include:

  • Regular breaks to check blood sugar levels
  • A seat if neuropathy is present

Under the law, workplaces are required under antidiscrimination laws to provide reasonable accommodations.

Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees who have to miss work due to a serious medical condition, or to care for a family member with a serious medical condition, are protected.

Diabetes is considered a serious medical condition if it requires a visit to the healthcare provider or hospitalization at least twice a year. Those with diabetes who qualify under the FMLA can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Legally, employers are required to allow this leave.

Parents who have children with diabetes can also take leave under FMLA.

To qualify for FMLA, a person needs to have worked at the same employer for 12 consecutive months, for at least 1,250 hours. The employer also has to have a minimum of 50 employees within 75 miles of each other.

An employer can require a person to use up accrued leave and count this towards the 12 weeks.

Law Enforcement

Those with diabetes have rights and protections to keep them healthy and safe when dealing with law enforcement or when in jail or prison.

Those in jail or prison have rights to adequate medical care and equal treatment under federal law.

Adequate Care

Adequate care needs vary from person to person but may include:

  • Blood sugar monitoring
  • Access to insulin
  • Access to appropriate wound care
  • Referral to specialist



Public Places

Under federal laws, most public places and programs are prevented from discriminating against those with diabetes. People with diabetes cannot be excluded from public places because of diabetes or be denied access to supplies for diabetes.

In public places, people with diabetes may be entitled to:

  • Bring diabetes care supplies like syringes and insulin through security checkpoints at airports or courthouses
  • Breaks to eat a snack, check blood sugar, take medicines, or go to the toilet
  • Assistance for children with diabetes in camps, daycare, or other recreational programs

Types of Benefits

Those with diabetes can sometimes be eligible for disability benefits, but not in all cases.

Those living with diabetes don't always qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

To get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) there needs to be serious problems with diabetes. This can vary based on state.

Applying for Benefits

To apply for benefits, your healthcare provider can provide reports detailing your limitations and what you can and cannot do.

To qualify for SSI or SSDI, a person must have a disability that prevents them from either:

  • Working for at least a year
  • Have a condition that is expected to result in death within twelve months

Disability claims typically go through local Social Security Administration field offices. Applications can typically be given in person, on the phone, online, or by mail.

The Disability Determination Service will collect evidence and decide if the disability definition has been met.

Learn More About Benefits

To locate your local office or learn ways to contact the SSA click here.

You can speak with a Social Security representative by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 8:00 am and 7:00 pm., Monday to Friday.

To learn more about government benefits, visit this site.

A Word From Verywell

Diabetes can be a complicated condition and is considered a disability under federal law. Rights and protections are in place to ensure those living with diabetes are protected against discrimination and are given the same opportunities as those without diabetes.

Rights and protections are mandated under federal law and can apply in schools, the workplace, in public places, and in dealings with law enforcement.

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8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Diabetes Association. Is diabetes a disability?

  2. American Diabetes Association. Demonstrating coverage under the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 for People with Diabetes. Updated January 2015.

  3. American Diabetes Association. Safe at school.

  4. American Diabetes Association. Reasonable accommodations.

  5. American Diabetes Association. Family Medical Leave Act.

  6. American Diabetes Association. The legal right to medical care in correctional facilities.

  7. American Diabetes Association. Fact sheet on discrimination in public places and government programs.

  8. American Diabetes Association. Fact sheet – social security disability programs.