Many people with type 2 diabetes don’t identify as being disabled, but the condition is a protected disability under federal law. You have certain protections at work and in public places if you live with type 2 diabetes.

If you live with type 2 diabetes, you know that it requires extra attention with the foods you eat, how you move your body, and the medications you may take to manage blood sugar levels.

While type 2 diabetes is considered a chronic metabolic disease, many people are unsure if it’s classified as an actual disability that grants protection under federal law.

Whether or not you personally identify as disabled, all types of diabetes — including type 2 diabetes — are considered a disability under federal law.

Type 2 diabetes is considered a disability because endocrine function is crucial for human life. All humans need insulin to function and live, whether or not their bodies produce it independently.

Because you must manage your blood sugar levels (and, as a result, your endocrine system), the condition is considered a disability, regardless of your ability to manage it. It’s considered a disability even if you don’t take insulin to manage your type 2 diabetes. The diagnosis alone protects you under federal law.

Laws such as section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act define diabetes as a disability because it alters and limits the body’s endocrine (pancreas) system and function.

These laws protect people in school and work settings. The laws protect people from discrimination and allow people reasonable accommodations to manage their diabetes when and where they need to in order to maintain blood sugar levels and stay healthy.

Under these protections, you can’t be asked to take insulin or another diabetes medication in private, you can’t be denied food to treat low blood sugar levels, and you’re able to test your blood sugar wherever you need to in order to stay healthy, among other protections.

About the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act became law in the United States in 1990.

This law bans discrimination against people with disabilities in public spaces, including places of education and employment. It was the first law to guarantee the use of “reasonable accommodations” for people who have disabilities.

For diabetes, reasonable accommodations may include carrying food with you at work to treat low blood sugar levels, being able to take more sick days at school without penalty, the ability to test your blood sugar and take insulin at your desk at work or school, and more.

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All types of diabetes, including type 1 diabetes, are considered disabilities under federal law.

Even if you have good blood sugar levels and a low A1C, if you have type 1 diabetes, you’re still protected under federal law because your pancreas doesn’t produce insulin on its own.

People with diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, face a lot of stigma. The stigma affects their lives in many ways and may even contribute to how they manage their condition.

Sometimes people won’t identify as “disabled” to avoid the stigma often associated with the label, but people with diabetes may want to recognize the legal protections and accommodations under federal law available if they should need them.

You usually can’t get disability benefits from just having type 2 diabetes.

If you’re experiencing major complications (that a doctor thinks will either last longer than 1 year or will be permanent) as a result of your diabetes and are unable to work as a result, you may be able to access disability benefits.

Disability benefits that you may qualify for are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Once you qualify for benefits, you’ll continue to receive them as long as you’re unable to work. The Social Security Administration (SSA) may do periodic checks to watch for ongoing benefit eligibility.

You don’t have to tell your employer that you have diabetes when you apply for jobs. You’re protected against discrimination whether you share that you have diabetes before or after the hiring process.

Some jobs may require a medical examination after a contingent job offer is granted. Certain jobs, such as school bus drivers, pilots, and heavy machine operators may have to pass vision and hearing exams.

These types of examinations are given to all applicants, whether or not they have diabetes. If it’s decided that you can’t complete a job safely, the initial job offer may be legally withdrawn.

Yes, you can get a tax credit. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows you to claim a tax deduction for the many common medical expenses you may have paid to diagnose, monitor, or treat your type 2 diabetes.

Unreimbursed medical expenses eligible for a tax deduction may include:

  • diabetes prescription medications, such as metformin or insulin
  • durable medical equipment, such as:
    • insulin syringes
    • insulin pump supplies
    • continuous glucose monitoring supplies
  • expenses related to hospital or doctor’s office visits
  • diabetes treatment programs, such as:
    • medical nutrition therapy
    • diabetes self-management education and support
    • the National Diabetes Prevention Program
  • mileage to and from doctor’s appointments

To take advantage of the tax credits, you must itemize your deductions to claim expenses. Only a portion of all costs will be deductible.

These expenses are only deductible if the total amount exceeds 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.

Whether or not you identify as being disabled, type 2 diabetes is considered a protected disability under federal law. These protections ban discrimination based on your diabetes in school, work, and public spaces.

The protections also allow for “reasonable accommodations,” so you can properly manage your diabetes without fear of losing your job.

People with diabetes can deduct many diabetes expenses from their taxes. If you’re unable to work because of major complications as a result of your diabetes, you may be eligible for government disability benefits.