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Re: [IPk] RE: DLA

Hi y'all,

I think the conversation is raising some interesting issues as well as some 
blood pressures and some our collective consciousness!  How one defines 
"disability" is a big deal with major implications for policy.

The great (semi-rhetorical) question seems to me to be: are people with 
diabetes disabled upon diagnosis, or does disability result from 
complications while diabetes itself is a condition, or is it all a matter of 
perspective, so that as long as a person _feels_ empowered perhaps despite 
being blind or having lost a limb (&etc.), he or she should not be called 
"disabled"?  The great dilemma seems to me to be that if we want to 
participate fully in society, on the one hand we can deny there's anything 
different about us and get crap care, and on the other we can announce to 
the world that we need special treatment and get stigmatized.

When I applied to come over here to study, the University admissions form 
had a bit that asked if I had a disability.  I thought "no" would be my 
answer until I got to the box to tick that said, "An unseen disability 
(i.e., asthma, epilepsy, diabetes, etc.)".  "Ah, so I _am_ disabled!" I 
thought.  I could have left that part of the form blank and gone on 
defending my personal position that diabetes does not disable me, but that 
might not have been the right thing to do: the University needs to know how 
many people have what sorts of "disabilities" in order to put in place 
appropriate (or approximate...) measures to help, so I marked the box.

However, diabetes itself, rather than some of the complications (which can 
be more life-alteringly disabling), _can_ be a disability when support is 
lacking, control is poor, or, especially, when those two things coincide.  
Also, for young children who feel left out because they can't eat the same 
things (or the same quantity of some things) as their classmates, diabetes 
can seem like a huge social obstacle.

The psychological implications of having diabetes, it seems to me, are 
rarely addressed properly. If someone's in denial, he or she is told to "get 
over it and get on with it," I've observed, rather than being offered real 
sympathy and a chance to come to grips with exactly what's going on.  I 
think that, perhaps, the extent to which each of us "feels" disabled might 
have a lot to do with the responses of those around us when we were 
diagnosed.  If our parents, partners, or friends seem to think something 
about us, that might in time change our self-perceptions, even if we start 
out convinced that we're okay and everyone else is worked up for little 

Yet, let's be honest, the legal status of diabetes as a disability comes in 
handy sometimes: parents whose children have been barred from checking their 
bgs at school, for example, can get their kids what they need to stay 
healthy.  I have been excused from dire meetings because I have been able to 
claim only slightly disingenously that I needed to leave (like, I probably 
could have sat there for another 15 mins. before a hypo got critical, but I 
could feel it coming on and I wanted to leave, so no one stopped me).  
Further, there is so much bad information about type 1 in the public sphere 
that a lot of employers would think of us as invalids  and not hire us if 
there were not some legal inclusion of diabetes in any anti-discrmination 
policies.  Sure, that's terrible, but it's true, and I, for one, would much 
rather have my qualifications assessed than entertain in interviews somewhat 
ignorant questions about how likely it is that I'll pass out at work. Once 
I'm hired, I'll set about my personal peer-education mission. Disability may 
be in the eye of the beholder, but the term can also be used to our 

As for calling diabetes a "condition" rather than a "disability," well, type 
1 is, as yet (hi Tony!), chronic and so much is unknown. I think a 
"condition" is something that can improve or worsen, but with diabetes, it's 
the control that changes, not the actual fact of having it (unless you're a 
type 2 who works hard and/or gets lucky, perhaps).  When people ask me about 
the differences between types 1 and 2, I usually say type 1 is an 
"autoimmune disorder" (which it is, of course) because that can drive home a 
few points: 1) no one gave me too many sweets as a child, and I did not get 
it because I ate too much of anything when I got older; 2) there's nothing 
to be done quickly or easily to make it go away; 3) enough is known about it 
that there is technical lingo to describe it; 4) saying that it is 
essentially my body's own "fault" (rather than the result of personal 
shortcomings) makes it easier to explain why there is no "cure" (yet). 
(Let's hear it for the old Western mind-body duality! ;> )

I have gone on entirely too long, but I think it's a good thing questions 
are being raised about how to define diabetes!

stepping off my soapbox,

IDDM 8 years; MiniMed pumper almost 6

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