Diabetes Discrimination

sisterSTAFF Blog

Diabetes Discrimination

May 2, 2010

First, I want to point you to the article I mentioned that I was working on a couple of weeks ago in my blog.  I promised to let you know when it had been posted, so here it is: http://busymommymedia.com/2010/05/the-difference-between-type-i-type-ii-diabetes/    Secondly, I read an article about Tim Duffy and the discrimination he faced because of his diabetes in the May 2010 Diabetes Forecast magazine today.  He was denied his license to become a boat captain by the Coast Guard.  After putting him through extensive testing that included providing 6 months of blood glucose readings, the Coast Guard sent him a letter saying, "We will not approve waivers for insulin-controlled diabetic mariners who show repeated low blood sugar levels below 70."  He had a few blood sugars below 70-- which is to be expected for anyone with type 1 diabetes who has excellent control.  

I have to admit that my life with diabetes (20+ years) has been relatively discrimination-free.  Part of that may be because I have always been very upfront and assertive about the fact that I have diabetes.  I am also the kind of person who responds to someone telling me that I “can’t” do something by saying, “Watch me!”  Another reason may be because I have chosen jobs in medical fields where diabetes was more understood—most often in careers where diabetes was the main focus.  I’m sure in those arenas it is much more difficult for someone to discriminate against me because of my diabetes….or, at least, to blatantly discriminate against me.  Of course, most discrimination cases aren’t cut and dry anyway. 

The only thing that comes to mind when I think back about discrimination is a comment I received my first day at a summer job during college back in my hometown of Hickory.  The owner of the business, who was probably in his 60s, came to the office.  When I was introduced to him by my manager (with the added explanation that I was the girl with diabetes), he responded by saying, “How old are you?”  I replied, “20.”  He said, “And you’re not married yet??  You’d better get to work, at 20 years old you’re life is already 1/3 over…with diabetes, you’ll be dead by 60.”  After picking up my mouth off the floor, I sat at my desk angry and hurt thinking about his comments.  How could someone say something so callous to someone they didn’t even know?  Since I knew I was only working there for two months during the summer, I chose not to pursue his negative comments any further...but, I am still unclear about what my rights are in a situation like this?!?!

At the 2010 Weekend for Women Conference, we will have a session devoted to legal issues faced by people (women, in particular) with diabetes.  The session will be led by Sabrina Rockoff, JD an attorney at Kilpatrick Stockton Law Firm in Raleigh who specializes in the Americans with Disabilities Act.   I am very interested to hear what she has to say because I have never had an opportunity to speak with a lawyer specifically about discrimination issues.  Who knows?  She might enlighten about some areas where I have experienced discrimination, but just overlooked it. 

So, Have you ever faced discrimination because of your diabetes?  How did you handle it?