What is the Americans with Disabilities Act?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities, including diabetes. The law also prohibits retaliation for asserting the right not to be discriminated against. The provisions of the ADA are substantially similar to those of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Are students with diabetes covered by the ADA?
Yes. There is agreement that students with diabetes are covered under the ADA. Students are covered by the ADA if they have a disability, defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Major life activities include the functioning of major bodily systems such as the endocrine system. Diabetes, by its very definition, limits the functioning of the endocrine system. In guidance, the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education states:
While there are no per se disabilities under Section 504 and [the ADA], the nature of many impairments is such that, in virtually every case, a determination in favor of disability will be made. Thus, for example, a school district should not need or require extensive documentation or analysis to determine that a child with diabetes, epilepsy, bipolar disorder, or autism has a disability under Section 504 and [the ADA].
Which schools need to comply with the ADA?
All public schools must comply with Title II of the ADA. All private schools, except religious schools, must comply with Title III of the ADA. (Religious schools that receive federal funding must comply with Section 504.)
What must schools covered by the ADA do to comply with the law?
The school must not discriminate against a child with a disability and is required to make reasonable changes in its practices and policies to avoid discrimination and to afford children with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate unless doing so would impose an "undue burden." Generally, schools will meet their obligations under the ADA by meeting their obligations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Are there any special protections for parents and guardians under the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act protects parents and guardians from being fired and other adverse employment actions taken because of their child's disability. Usually, this law does not provide for leave to care for a child or to attend meetings. However, the employer may not treat an employee differently because his or her child has a disability. Therefore, if leave is provided for other personal or family reasons, the employer cannot deny similar leave just because the employee needs the time for reasons related to a child's disability. For more information on this issue, please see the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Enforcement Guidance: Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities.