Disability and Diabetes Revisited

The other day as I was filling out some forms — checking off my sex and race — I ran to that perennial question: Do you have any disabilities? My gut reaction is obviously an emphatic NO, but then I remember that delicate issue within our parasitic community about freedom from stigma and protection under the law.

I’m reminded that advocates are working hard to pass legislation to update and refresh that the Americans with Disabilities Act, which has — according to sources at the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) — been “warped” from its original intent. The new bill is an attempt to place the ADA (now: Americans with Disabilities Act) in line with other civil rights statutes that focus on discrimination instead of on whether the individual involved is handicapped enough to make protection.

• The so-called “Sutton Trilogy” — a group of cases that set a “wellness” precedent for people with chronic illness: should you have a “mitigating measure” like an insulin pump that allows you to control your disease, then you’re not considered handicapped enough to qualify for protection under the ADA (which kind of provides a perverse incentive to not take care of your self, ay?)

Trouble is, an employer could say he’s not hiring you as your diabetes (or other state) makes his insurance premiums go up — but then the court says you’re not handicapped enough for protection under the law. D’oh!

• Williams vs. Toyota — a case that set the threshold much higher to be eligible for protection under the ADA. The courts are invited to check at so-called “major life activities,” i.e. are you currently substantially restricted in something vital that “ordinary people” do? Kerry McClure, an electrician who’d interviewed in-house to get a job is talked about by A CCD spokeswoman. He was hired, so he moved his family to another state and offered his house. But when GM found out he had multiple sclerosis, they dropped him like a hot potato — despite the fact that he’d passed the exams and could perform work. However he had no defense under the law because the court said if he can brush his teeth, dress himself and take the trash out, he then can perform “major life activities.” Aargh.

“That’s just how warped the interpretation of the law has gotten — people are too handicapped for the job and not handicapped enough for protection,” that the CCD spokeswoman laments.

When you set it on those conditions, I damn well need “handicapped” protection, too. I need the law to stand up and state that discrimination isn’t OK, if a person attempts to edge me out of a job or other opportunity because of my diabetes. Therefore I am very grateful that advocacy groups (like that our ADA) are pushing for this revamp of the Disabilities Act, which will reverse the problem to place the focus the discrimination, instead of just how handicapped the defendant might be. The ADA Restoration Act will hopefully gain a stronghold in the House within the next month or two, and has support from the Senate, the CCD informs me.

Meanwhile, the The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) which enforces the employment provisions of the ADA, has made a list of “reasonable accommodations” for PWDs at work. Employers need to supply:

• a personal area to take insulin or to test blood sugar levels

• a place to rest until blood sugar levels become regular

• breaks drink or to eat, take medication, or test blood sugar levels

• leave for treatment, recuperation, or training on managing diabetes

• shift switch or altered work schedule

Them’s Folks, your rights. Nice to know someone’s looking out for us — even though we mostly handicapped.

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