Is Diabetes a Disability?

The short answer is "Yes."

  • Under most laws, diabetes is a protected as a disability.
  • Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are protected as disabilities.
  • People with diabetes can do any type of job, sport or life goal

People with diabetes of all types are protected as people with qualifying disabilities. But being protected from discrimination does not mean that diabetes has to put the brakes on life! People with diabetes are able to drive race cars, fight fires, play contact sports and generally do whatever they need to follow their dreams.

For more information on how people with diabetes have rights and protections, check out the following links:

If you are an attorney or advocate with questions about diabetes-related cases or legal questions, see Attorney Materials for detailed legal materials and memoranda.

Can I Get Disability Benefits for Diabetes?

Sometimes. People with diabetes can sometimes get disability benefits, but not always.

People with diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, do not always qualify for Social Security disability benefits. There must be serious problems with diabetes in order to get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). For work sponsored short or long term disability plans, each plan is different. Read the policy closely to learn more. Finally, different states can have different laws for their own benefit programs.

For more information on disability benefits, see the Social Security Disability Programs Fact Sheet (PDF).

How is Diabetes Defined as a Disability Under Federal Law?

The following key points apply to federal law:

  • Diabetes is a disability because it substantially limits the function of the endocrine system
  • Diabetes can be an "invisible" disability
  • Diabetes is still a disability, even if a person is healthy and diabetes is well-managed

Diabetes limits the endocrine system. This is the system that regulates insulin and blood glucose (sugar). Specifically, federal laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, protect qualified individuals with a disability. Since 2009, amendments and regulations for these laws make clear that diabetes is a disability since it substantially limits the function of the endocrine system. This internal limitation is enough—no outside limitation is necessary. This means diabetes can be an "invisible" disability.

Federal law does not take into account mitigating measures such as medication use when determining whether an individual is a qualifying person with a disability. A person may have diabetes completely under control through medicine and lifestyle changes, and still have a qualifying disability. That means that for the purpose of defining disability, the laws look at how the person would be if they stopped treating diabetes in any way. Usually, that would be very bad. As a result, diabetes is almost always a disability.

For more information on proving diabetes as a disability in the legal context see the following resources:

If you are an attorney or advocate with questions about diabetes-related cases or legal questions, see Attorney Materials for detailed legal materials and memoranda.

Is Diabetes a Disability Under State Law?

State and local law often are similar to federal law, and have the same definition of disability. In some states, the protections are greater, in others they are less. When state law is weaker, the federal protections apply. When state law is stronger, state law protections apply on top of the federal protections.

For more information about state laws, see the following resources:

Need Help?

Sometimes in life people with diabetes will face a problem related to diabetes, and it will just not seem right. If you have questions about your rights, or how to advocate for someone with diabetes, we are here to help.

If you have more questions about the law, or need help with on-going problems related to diabetes, email askADA@diabetes.org, or call the American Diabetes Association Association at 1-800-DIABETES (342-2383).

  • Last Reviewed: August 4, 2015
  • Last Edited: January 5, 2017

Articles from Diabetes Forecast® magazine:

Diabetes Forecast