Type 1 Diabetes: A disability or not? How do you identify with it?

This is a question which I’ve struggled to answer for a long time. Is Diabetes a Disability in my eyes? As many will already know Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus is by law an “Unseen Disability” which has the ability to significantly impact the lives of the people that have it. It’s power to disrupt and harm the people that live with it, in my opinion, is underestimated by much of society. As much as I strongly believe that you’re able to overcome the condition to achieve great things, there will always be the lasting effects and scars of living with Diabetes which challenge normality. I find this a really testing subject and one which in my experience has divided views amongst the diabetic community.  

As always though, I don’t shy away from expressing my opinion on the difficult subjects. However I fear I might still be on the fence with this one.

When a law states that a condition falls into the parameters of Disability it’s hard to argue with the reasons behind that decision. When I consider my own life and its impact, there’s no doubt that despite getting used to the difficulties, the interruptions shouldn’t be overlooked.

Let’s consider some of those moments when I firmly believe this condition I live with makes it feel like a Disability.  What about when you’re woken up in the middle of the night, sweating, suffering a hypoglycaemia that causes a headache which lasts all day? Losing 2/3 hours sleep trying to correct your glucose levels in the middle of the night back into range? Or when I’m forced off the football pitch because my glucose levels are dangerously out of range? Or when it stops me from driving and holds me up for an hour and a half whilst I recover?  Or when my vision blurs and I lose some of my coordination?

Whilst these are just a few examples there’s no doubt that when any of these things occur, life can feel constrained, as Diabetes presents itself as a Disability.

I think it bores down to the potential the condition has to impact on someone’s life… Although I’ve done ok for myself in terms of my achievements, this condition has the potential to have a devastating impact on someone’s life, and in the most unfortunate circumstances it can be fatal. I think for those who are given the opportunity to maintain reasonable control of the condition it can feel like Diabetes doesn’t hold you back much, if at all, and doesn’t really reflect that “Disability” tag. However for those who may be unlucky and are unable to manage it, its unquestionable the debilitating effect it has.

If it didn’t impact on my life whatsoever I’m not sure I would’ve spent so much time hiding my Diabetes through the fear of judgement. I always wanted to merit my achievements on my ability and not my disability.  I always felt it was another hurdle to jump over, which would mean I would just need to work harder than everyone else to achieve my goals.

There’s no doubt whichever way I try to answer the question I find myself sat back on the fence on this one. It’s a condition which will never be the same for everyone and in turn will never have the same effects on someone’s life. I’ve been lucky enough to live a life where I’ve been able to keep it under control for the most part and not let it affect my outlook and approach. There are many others who aren’t as lucky as I am and I appreciate that….

If I pose myself the question again “is Diabetes a Disability to me?” I’m still not sure!!!

What do you think?

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3 thoughts on “Type 1 Diabetes: A disability or not? How do you identify with it?

  1. Disability as a legally protected status is not just about what one can, or cannot do, but also about how you are treated by other people and institutions. So, for example, people with facial disfigurement, and People who have survived cancer also are disabled. Like t1ds, when they don’t get a job, they don’t know whether their disability had any part in the firm’s decision. Punitive insurance rates (and more tax!) Hassles at airports. Having to jump through hoops to access medical advances. Misrepresentation in the media. It really doesn’t matter whether you think you you are disabled or not: the world treats you as a disabled person. I don’t think fighting the label is the answer. Rather, we should link arms with other people with disabilities and assert that none of us should be treated like this.

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  2. Living with Type 1 for 42 years – sometimes it has disabled me – or at least interfered with my abilities – whilst at others (through learning how to cope with it) it hasn’t stopped me too often. I think it depends on the situation, the time, the reaction of others. Much more complex than people without it realise.

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  3. Interesting topic! I’ve been a T1 for 49 and a bit years now, and I call myself a diabetic, and I do not consider myself disabled, however I can see that some of the effects can be disabling. If I had to have a limb amputated, I would then consider myself disabled, if I have a severe hypo I consider myself disabled for a short time, but normally I am not disabled by my condition. I see a disability as something that stops me being able to do things, and my condition doesn’t do that. Ok, I can’t become an astronaut, but I wasn’t T1 I probably wouldn’t be able to become one anyway. It is a complex condition, but I think any disability is due to things caused by the condition, not the condition itself.

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