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Disability Laws and Type 1 Diabetes

Ensuring Your Child Gets Equal Education Opportunities


Updated June 19, 2014

Disability Laws and Type 1 Diabetes
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Though some people might not consider diabetes to be a “disability” in the same category as someone with a spinal cord injury, disability laws are also diabetes laws. It is illegal to discriminate against someone because of a disability -- including children with type 1 diabetes who are in school and day care settings.

If your school-age child has type 1 diabetes, there are three important laws you should know about.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 504 says that any public or private school that receives federal funds cannot discriminate against a person with a disability. The law also safeguards against retaliation if discrimination is reported.

One important way to prevent discrimination is to develop what is called a Section 504 Plan for your child. A Section 504 Plan (also called an Individualized Education Program or IEP) is a customized plan that sets out an agreement for making sure your child has the same access to education as other children. It is a tool that can be used to make sure that you, your child and school personnel understand the responsibilities that pertain to each party. Its drafting is also useful in promoting dealing with potential problems or misunderstandings ahead of time. The Act gives you the right to develop, with the school's agreement, a plan that will accommodate any special needs your child may have that stem from his type 1 diabetes.

Part of your Section 504 Plan should include a detailed diabetes medical management plan. This plan clearly identifies your child’s diabetes needs and includes specific instructions on how appropriate personnel can help him meet these needs when at school or day care.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

This federal law addresses the issue of whether the disability in question (type 1 diabetes, in this case) impairs the child’s academic performance. If it is determined that diabetes affects your child’s ability to learn, he or she must be given a “free, appropriate public education.” This means that qualified children are entitled to special education and related services at no cost to their parents. Strict guidelines are followed to determine eligibility.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

ADA is also a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, and protects against retaliation for those who claim they have been discriminated against. All public and private schools and day care centers must comply. The school or day care center cannot discriminate against a child with type 1 diabetes and is required to make reasonable changes in its practices and policies to give that child equal opportunities to participate in learning activities.

Individual states may also have additional laws against discrimination in the classroom or in a day care setting.

More in-depth information on all three of these laws is available:


Know Your Rights! American Diabetes Association. Accessed September 8, 2009. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/know-your-rights/?loc=DropDownLWD-knowyourrights

Lesson Plans: How to Keep Your Kid Safe at School. American Diabetes Association. Accessed September 8, 2009. http://www.diabetes.org/assets/pdfs/schools/lesson-plan-2007.pdf

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