I have a hard time deciding if I am or am not disabled. I don’t think of myself as disabled. I can function on my own as long as I have my insulin and finger poker (well forearm poker in my case). I am game to try anything that a “normal” person can do. Run, lift heavy weights, work around sharp objects and other normal stuff. I am 47 years old and a 38 year veteran diabetic. I have been around the block so many times there’s a rut in the street. The issue I have is that other people’s opinion of me changes when either 1) they find out I am a diabetic because I tell them or 2) something happens at work and they find out the less than glamorous way what happens when a person’s blood sugar drops too low.
I know this is putting it into an over simplified form but the government can’t even decide amongst itself if I am or not. According to the US military I am disabled, medically dependent 4F. I have to give them that one, sharp bunch they are. Here’s were it gets weird. If I had become a diabetic after I joined I would have been shoved into a desk job or maybe a mechanic somewhere. I could live with that. It is actually what I wanted the day I walked into the recruiters office over 20 years ago. So how did I go from being placed into a non combat job to being unwelcome not by just being a diabetic but by WHEN I became a diabetic? Remember it was not that long ago that women were allowed to join the army, navy, marines, and air force just not in combat roles. So a diabetic is worth less than a woman. That thud you just heard was my self esteem hitting the floor. Women have gained the right to serve our country but diabetics haven’t. I want to serve my country but because I have a disease that the military doesn’t want to deal with I am not as useful as the women who not only now serve with their male counterparts but even in combat roles. That crash you heard was the afore mentioned self esteem popping through the floor into the basement. Still think of a woman as the weaker sex? Walk up and tell that to one at the bar this weekend and see how long it take get her foot pulled out of your backside.
Now let’s go to the other side of this coin and have me go into the social security office and file a disability claim. After the poor lady (or man) gets their breathe back and is able to stand up off the floor, where they fell in ta fit of laughter, they tell me to come back tomorrow and try again. I know I would have a hard time giving a diabetic a monthly disability check just because they had to take insulin each day.
I looked up the actual American Disabilities Act online and read the description of a disability. Diabetes fits however employers have to make “reasonable accommodations” to a person with a disability. “Hey boss can I carry a bag of Skittles in my pocket?” is a reasonable request as far as I am concerned. Recently I had a conversation with a recruiter for a temp service at a job fair. I told her about a local company I had worked for and had a few incidents of low blood sugar. I was hired by her company to staff this old employer but with only 2 days left at my then current job she called to tell me they would not rehire me. I was pretty mad at that point. I emailed the corporate human resource office only to have it sent to the local plant for an answer. They basically told me that when I left I signed paperwork to effect that they did not have to hire me back. Since they had enough application from new employees they were opting to not hire me back. Huh? Why would you hire someone with no knowledge of company policy and procedures over someone who was very familiar with lean manufacturing and the still in use computer system? Most human resource managers complain all the time about the cost having to train new employees so why would you turn one away unless……. Hey wait a minute!!!
Time to go unload on the real world now. Stop and think about how you are treated if you are a diabetic and how you act toward them if you are not one of us. Even well intention faux pau can leave a bad taste in ones mouth.