Yes, any type of diabetes can qualify as a disability under federal law. You can get legal protections at school and work because of this condition.

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is a lifelong autoimmune condition that affects most decisions someone makes in a day. The 24/7 management of T1D affects how people exercise, eat, and organize their lives.

You can live a long, healthy life with T1D. It also happens to be considered a disability, which opens up certain protections in the workplace and other places in the United States.

This article explains more about how and why diabetes is a disability, and what that means for people who live with T1D or any other type of diabetes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a disability as a physical or mental health condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities.

Diabetes is considered a protected disability under federal law, whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. That means you’re guaranteed protections in public places because you have T1D.

You cannot be discriminated against in the school or workplace, and reasonable accommodations are guaranteed for you to help manage your diabetes.

These places can include:

  • at school
  • in the workplace
  • certain accommodations and access to public places, such as avoiding long lines
  • in the context of dealing with law enforcement

Even if you don’t consider yourself to have a disability, these legal protections are meant to help you in case diabetes does affect your life in certain ways.

Managing diabetes stigma

Often, people with diabetes face stigma regarding how people view their condition and how it influences their lives and work. They may not want to consider their diabetes a disability to avoid further stigma.

However, it is important for people with diabetes to recognize that they have legal protections and accommodations if needed due to their condition.

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Under federal laws, such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, diabetes is viewed as an official disability because it substantially limits your endocrine system’s function.

The endocrine system is responsible for producing insulin and managing blood sugar levels. Since people with T1D do not produce insulin and must dose their insulin, the condition qualifies as a disability.

Diabetes always counts as a disability, even if your blood sugars and A1C levels are in range and well managed.

These laws ban discrimination against people with disabilities in any program or activity operated by recipients of federal funding, including schools and workplaces.

These laws also outline the need to guarantee reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. The laws leave the language vague because what’s considered “reasonable” varies from person to person.

Accommodations for diabetes may include:

  • treating low blood sugars while at work
  • taking insulin
  • checking your blood sugars when needed without repercussions from your school or employer

About the Americans with Disabilities Act

Passed into law in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) bans discrimination based on disability in the public sphere. It was the first law to outline the guarantee of reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities.

When applying for jobs, you do not have to tell your employer you have diabetes. You are protected against discrimination whether you share your personal health information before or after the hiring process.

You can read more here about how the ADA specifically applies to people with diabetes.

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There is no age minimum or maximum for diabetes to qualify as a disability.

If you have any type of diabetes, you are protected under the law.

For public schools, you are legally allowed to create a 504 plan. This plan ensures that the school provides a medically safe environment and fair treatment.

The American Diabetes Association provides sample 504 plans. The school may also have examples to help guide any decision-making for students with diabetes.

Any type of diabetes is considered a disability under federal law, including type 2 diabetes.

Anyone with type 2 diabetes cannot be legally discriminated against in a school, work, or public setting. Just like those with T1D, people with type 2 may also be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

Yes. If you have any type of diabetes, your medical expenses are probably higher than a person without diabetes.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows you to claim a tax deduction for many of the expenses you’ve incurred over the previous year, whether to diagnose, monitor, or treat your diabetes.

To get a tax deduction, you must itemize your deductions to claim any expenses. Only a portion of all costs are deductible.

Your total deduction for medical expenses, including everything relating to your diabetes management, is only deductible if the total exceeds 7.5% of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI).

Unreimbursed medical expenses eligible for deductions include:

  • prescription medications, including insulin
  • durable medical equipment, such as:
  • hospital and doctor visits
  • treatment programs recommended by your doctor
  • mileage to and from your doctor’s office

Usually, you cannot get disability benefits from having diabetes alone.

However, if major complications due to your diabetes prevent you from working, you may be able to access disability benefits.

You may qualify for either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Any diabetes complications must be severe enough that your doctor thinks they will either be permanent or last more than a year.

Generally, as long as you have a disability that prevents you from working, you will receive benefits. The Social Security Administration may check in with you periodically to determine your ongoing eligibility.

Thanks to advances in medical treatments and civil rights, there are very few jobs that have an outright ban against people with T1D.

One of the most recent professions that changed its hiring guidelines for T1D is commercial airline piloting.

In 2020, the Federal Aviation Administration allowed people with T1D to obtain their certification for commercial piloting. This followed many years of advocacy work by the American Diabetes Association and others.

Still, a few employment restrictions do remain.

Most branches of the military restrict the new enlistment of people who already have a diabetes diagnosis. This ban applies to people in the uniformed services.

Some jobs may require a medical examination after a contingent job offer is given. The exam is to make sure you are fit for the job, whether you have diabetes or not. If you do not pass the medical examination and cannot do the job safely, the job offer may be rescinded.

All types of diabetes and people of all ages with diabetes are protected under federal law. These protections ban discrimination in school, work, and public spaces based on your diabetes.

The law also allows for reasonable accommodations so you can properly manage your diabetes without fear of losing your job.

People with diabetes can do most jobs, and having diabetes shouldn’t hold you back from following your dreams.

However, if you’re unable to work due to diabetes-related complications, you may be able to receive disability benefits from the government.