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[IP] CA DMV Refuses Ambulance Driver's Certificate - ADA new release

I found this article in the ADA newletter.  I thought there might be an
interest due to recent threads.

Diabetes activists take on rules that stop all with the disease from driving
for a living.
By Melanie Payne
Sacramento Bee Staff Writer (Published October 28, 2002)

Diagnosed with diabetes at age 7, Matt Pearce held on to his doctor's
assurances that despite the disease he would grow up and could pursue any
career save one, airline pilot.

Pearce never let diabetes stop him. He plays soccer regularly, volunteers
with search and rescue teams, and travels around the globe for grueling
Eco-Challenge adventure races.

Then the Chico man decided to pursue a job as an ambulance driver and ran
right into a concrete barrier, the <A HREF="http://www.dmv.ca.gov/">California
Department of Motor Vehicles</A>.

The agency refused to give Pearce a certificate that would qualify him to
drive an ambulance because of regulations barring insulin-dependent people
from the job.

Pearce is now launching an appeal to get around what advocates for people for
diabetes call blanket automatic bans.

"What we want is for the department to do an individual assessment," said
Shereen Arent, the national director of legal advocacy for the American
Diabetes Association. "They are not doing it fairly by just doing it on a
diagnosis and not doing it on an individual basis."

DMV spokesman Bill Gengler said the regulations, designed to protect public
safety, prevent people with diabetes from driving buses and ambulances.

The certification exempts employers from having to hire someone who could
"pass out or have medical problems that would impair their ability to operate
a vehicle," Gengler said.

 Advocates for those with diabetes point to the large number of Americans who
have diabetes -- one in every 20 adults -- and the disproportionate
percentages of racial minorities who have the disease.

The reason for the higher incidence is unknown. Yet, diabetes strikes 15.1
percent of Indians and Alaska natives, 13 percent of African Americans and
10.2 percent of Latinos, according to the <A
HREF="http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes">Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention</A>. That compares with roughly 7.8 percent of non-Latino whites.

The federal government has the same type of regulation for interstate
trucking. The agency in charge of regulating truck safety has proposed making
an exemption for diabetes.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is evaluating that proposal
based on 400 comments it received, said Suzy Bohnert, an agency spokeswoman.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a research group supported by
insurers, opposed the proposal that would allow insulin-using diabetic
drivers to operate commercial motor vehicles.

The change "would jeopardize the safety of the American public,"Elisa Braver,
an epidemiologist for the nonprofit group, wrote in a letter to federal

Drivers can't be trusted to self-report dizzy spells or loss of consciousness
because it might result in their losing their jobs, she said, explaining that
the erratic hours involved in trucking make the job incompatible with insulin

Driving restrictions needlessly limit employment for specific people because
of stereotypes and myths, said Susanne Bruyere, a Cornell University
professor who studies the impact of disabilities on employment.

While she said she encourages Pearce and other individuals to challenge
perceptions, she realizes this can be difficult.

"If people have repeatedly been blocked in their experience in employment,
they tend to lose heart," said Bruyere, director of the Program on Employment
and Disability at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor
Relations. "If you suffer repeated disappointments, you're less likely to put
yourself out there."

The same sort of restrictions apply to people with epilepsy, said Alta
Hancock, director of the EmploymentPlus program of the Epilepsy Foundation of
Oregon. She added that California and Oregon have the most restrictive
driving certification conditions in the country.

The problem is that regulations can be based on myth or a lack of education,
Hancock said. Some people with epilepsy have seizures only while sleeping or
at rest, and those people shouldn't be restricted in driving, she said. A
general rule is unfair and unnecessary.

Her organization is trying to get people to speak out about the disease,
Hancock said, because "secrecy perpetuates myth and misunderstandings.

Sarah Garrison, a Morro Bay resident who has diabetes, said there is hope.
She appealed a decision by the California Department of Motor Vehicles that
denied her a certificate to drive an ambulance -- and she won.

Garrison and her attorney, Dale Larabee of San Diego, spent a year preparing
her appeal, she said. Larabee, whose son has diabetes, took the case
"basically pro bono," Garrison said.

Three months after her hearing in September 2000, Garrison received her
certificate in the mail.

"It really shocked us," she said, because Larabee had told her it was likely
they would lose at the local DMV level and have to appeal to the courts.

"We almost would have preferred going to the next step because it would have
helped other people," Garrison said.

Pearce, for instance, would have liked the issue settled, but instead he's
taken up the fight himself. He also appealed the decision.

Pearce is determined to get his certificate and said he has completed his
training to become an emergency medical technician.

"I've always been involved in emergency services," he said. "I want to be out
there, helping people and making a difference," he said.

Publication date: 2002-10-30
) 2002, <A HREF="http://www.yellowbrix.com/">YellowBrix, Inc.</A>

Katherine Nelson & MyHope2 (the pump)
dx T2 '86, T1 '96,
MM 508 - 5/15/01, MM 511 - 9/13/02
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