All students with diabetes have the right to be treated fairly, no matter their age. However, it is important to understand the differences between legal protections for students in K-12 education and post-secondary students. A few important differences include:
- In K-12 education, it is primarily the parent's responsibility to advocate for the needs of their child. In contrast, college is the time when students must take over this responsibility for themselves.
- K-12 public schools have an affirmative obligation to provide students with a "free appropriate public education" or FAPE. Colleges have no such obligation to provide an education to any particular person. However, they must not discriminate against otherwise qualified students.
- K-12 public schools also must identify children with disabilities. In contrast, it is the student's job to disclose their disability and request accommodations if needed.
- Finally, while many high schools create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 Plan for students with diabetes, colleges typically do not. While colleges should provide written documentation of any modifications agreed to, this documentation typically will not be called a "Section 504 Plan."
Below are resources to help ensure that post-secondary students—including community college students, liberal arts college students, and graduate and professional school students—with diabetes understand their rights and are treated fairly:
Going to College with Diabetes: A Self Advocacy Guide for Students
This guide includes chapters on admissions, working with your disability services office, tips for internships and jobs, resolving disagreements, and standardized exams. It also includes helpful sample accommodations request forms.
The Diabetes Link
The Diabetes Link is a national nonprofit organization that specializes in helping teens and young adults navigate their diabetes among an ever-changing and fast-paced world. They provide peer support, resources, and leadership opportunities designed specifically for young adults living with type 1 diabetes.