Success Stories

You're not alone. Others have faced - and defeated - discrimination because of diabetes. Here are some recent examples.

Ella Burns' Story

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Ella Burns Photo

"You made SUCH a big difference in our lives. Thank You."

That was the message sent from Beth Burns, mother of six-year old Ella, to one of the Association's Legal Advocates. Ella's parents had enrolled her in a Snohomish School District (Washington) program, held once per week for home-schooled children. Ella has type 1diabetes and needs to take insulin on a regular basis to stay well. The school needed to confirm that someone would be available to help Ella with insulin and/or glucagon, if she had a medical emergency. The school assured Ella's parents that a school nurse, who worked half-days at the program, would be available.

Ella was all set for the program, but the weekend before her first day, the school nurse called and said that the school could not care for Ella and was not required to do so.

The school's position was that because the program was a "choice" program, it did not have to provide any school services or modifications above those that were already in place for the students.

The school had withdrawn its promise for Ella's care, and that meant that she would not be able to attend the program. So, Beth contacted the American Diabetes Association for help.

Beth learned that Ella had rights. Under federal law (the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act), the school was required to meet Ella's medical needs and allow her to attend the program. With the help of the Association's Legal Advocate, Beth wrote a letter to the head of the school district's Special Education Program. After a meeting to discuss the issue, they were able to work things out.

"What you do truly changes lives—Ella LOVES her program. Instead of her first lesson in the 'real world' being that 'diabetes holds you back from doing what you want to do,' it's been one of inclusion and support by her community." - Beth Burns

Marissa's Story

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Four-year-old Marissa was happily attending a Head Start preschool program in Philadelphia. This publicly funded program was a calm and safe place for Marissa to be during the week, since her family was struggling with health and financial issues. Her dad uses a wheelchair and her mom had been diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. So attending this program was good for Marissa and good for her family. School was a place where she could learn, have fun and play with other children.

But everything changed after Marissa was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

After learning about Marissa's diagnosis, the school district said that she could not come back to the Head Start program. The family was told that, since there was nobody to provide diabetes care throughout the school day, the only way Marissa could attend was if they hired and paid for a nurse themselves. But that was simply not possible. So—just like that—Marissa was out of school and stuck at home.

For the next few months, Marissa’s mother, grandmother and other family members tried and tried to figure something out. They called their state representative, contacted education groups, anything to get Marissa back to school. But nobody could help them. Tired and frustrated, they thought nothing could be done.

Then a family friend suggested that they call the American Diabetes Association. They finally got the help they needed.

A Legal Advocate (a lawyer experienced with diabetes discrimination) at the Association let the family know that Marissa had legal rights. By denying her the ability to attend school, the school district had broken federal law. The Legal Advocate referred Marissa's case to Alan Yatvin, a Philadelphia member of the Association’s Advocacy Attorney Network. At no cost to the family, Mr. Yatvin reached out to the school district. He presented information about the law and tried to work with school officials to solve the problem. When that didn't work, he filed a lawsuit in federal court demanding that the school district provide diabetes care for Marissa at school and allow her to return. The district then backed down and agreed to assign a full-time nurse to the school.

After almost five months, Marissa was finally back in school.

Sadly, her mother, Evelyn, died two weeks after Marissa returned to school. Although it was a hard time for the whole family, it helped them to know that Marissa was safe at school, where she belonged.

"I am disappointed that school officials didn't understand this terrible denial of Marissa's basic rights. But I am so happy that with the resources of the American Diabetes Association, we were able to help this sweet little girl and her wonderful family. The Association's Legal Advocacy program made the difference." - Alan Yatvin

Paige and Clare's Story

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Paige and Claire picture

Sending a child off to college can be scary. Countless fears may run through a parent's mind, but worries that their child will be medically-safe should not be one of them. Paige is a sophomore in college and has type 1 diabetes. Paige was happily settled in a university dorm for her first 1 1/2 years of college. Her roommate knew about Paige's diabetes and was instructed about what to do if Paige had an emergency. All seemed well.

Then a scary incident in November 2014 changed things.

Paige, an NCAA university athlete, was due to attend a team workout. When a teammate noticed that Paige had not shown up, she rushed to her dorm to check on things. Paige was not awake. She had severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and was unconscious. Her teammate called Paige's mother, Clare, and, with her help by phone, managed to wake Paige up. Afterward, Paige's roommate in the dorm felt uncomfortable and was not willing to help in the event of a future emergency. So, Paige decided she needed to move out of the dorm and live with someone willing and able to assist her if in the event of a another emergency.

Page requested to be able to move out of the dorm, but University Housing informed her that there would be a $1,000 penalty for leaving before the lease was over. She explained the situation, and her medical needs, but the university would not budge.

Paige and Clare contacted the American Diabetes Association.

A Legal Advocate at the Association (a lawyer experienced with diabetes discrimination) informed them about Paige's legal rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act. They learned that terminating the dorm lease early could be considered a "reasonable accommodation" for Paige's disability. The Legal Advocate helped write a letter to the university asking for the $1,000 fine to be removed. It was!

"My daughter and I were blessed to receive assistance from a Legal Advocate. Her understanding of our frustration, knowledge of the laws and passion for helping Paige was comforting. Paige and I are happy to assist the American Diabetes Association financially while continuing our advocacy." Clare, Paige's Mother.

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Read What Others Are Saying About the Legal Advocacy Program

"Without the legal guidance offered by the American Diabetes Association, this matter could have been ignored. But it wasn't ignored. Thank you to everyone who helped to make this program truly safe for every child who has diabetes." — Parent of child with diabetes

"I found you when I was at my worst and, if not for your help, I would have been lost." — Employee with diabetes

"I should have called sooner…I think I was being a little too patient. I am very grateful for your support and expertise in this area. I cannot thank you enough!" — Parent of child with diabetes

"Just wanted to tell you thank you for speaking with me last week regarding my patients and the suggestions you provided. I received the packet of information you sent me and will make it available to our patients." — Health care provider

"The Association is remarkable for standing up for the rights of people like me who have 'invisible' disabilities that people so often overlook. Thank you, American Diabetes Association, and your amazing Legal Advocates." — Employee with diabetes

"I am very thankful for the American Diabetes Association services to help families make sure their children are safe and treated fairly. I wish all parents caring for children with diabetes were aware of their rights." — Parent of child with diabetes

"I cannot thank you enough for your assistance through this ordeal. I likely would not be employed right now without it. I will use my first check to become an Association member and support your organization." — Employee with diabetes

"I should have called sooner…I think I was being a little too patient. I am very grateful for your support and expertise in this area. I cannot thank you enough!" — Parent of child with diabetes

"Thanks so much for all of your assistance. I can't tell you how much it meant." — Employee with diabetes

"I want to thank you for the time you spent visiting with me on the phone recently. It is extremely encouraging to visit with someone that understands diabetes and is willing to provide information regarding this disease… All of us involved appreciate your willingness to keep an open file. This is the first time the family has experienced a friendly relationship, and we sincerely appreciate your helpful attitude." — Advocate for inmate with diabetes

  • Last Reviewed: October 1, 2013
  • Last Edited: January 29, 2015

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Diabetes Forecast