The great debate: Is diabetes a disability?
Every document, or theory about disability, that I’ve ever read mentions diabetes as a disability, as kind of a “hey, bet you didn’t know this is a disability too!” way, after listing what our common perception of disabilities are. However, in reality, it apparently isn’t so straightforward.
At my last endo appointment, I brought paperwork to apply for both for the disability tax credit and a grant for students with permanent disabilities. My doctor said she would willingly sign the tax credit application, but not the grant application, because “diabetes isn’t a disability”. Not sure exactly where the logic is in that, since apparently it is enough of a disability for me to apply for the tax credit…but not qualify for a grant?
However – the catch with the tax credit is that type one diabetics have been turned down in great numbers for it within the last couple years. To be eligible, you have to have a disability that demands at least fourteen hours of life-sustaining therapy per week. Technically, my disease requires life-sustaining therapy 24/7, but the interpretation of what constitutes said therapy has changed. They allow you to count time that consists of switching out pump supplies, or pens, taking your blood sugar, logging your blood sugar, but don’t allow you to count some of the things that take the most time and energy, such as counting carbohydrates, calculating insulin dosages, travelling to medical appointments, treating and recovering from high and low blood sugars and picking up medication, among many others. I can’t remember all the specific details, but it is ridiculous. Diabetes is a disease that requires constant, attentive management, but the requirements for the tax credit do not take this into account.
I still sent in my application, even though my doctor said it takes “creativity” to come up with a care log that meets their standards to even be considered, and then often, they reject the applications because “diabetics shouldn’t need to spend fourteen hours a week managing their diabetes”. I’m calling bullshit on that!
Thankfully, representatives from Diabetes Canada and other organizations are working hard on our behalf by lobbying for more inclusive and fair consideration for diabetics regarding eligibility. I have done my part by sending a letter to my MP, and I hope other diabetics are doing the same!
I also hope, that by the time my application is processed, maybe the government will have re-evaluated their standards. Or at least, that they will compensate all of the rejected applicants that so deserve this tax credit.
Diabetes is a permanent, exhausting and demanding disease. Not to mention, extremely costly if you don’t have full coverage for prescriptions. It takes a lot of time, effort and careful management to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, and even then, this disease is so complex that half the time your best efforts don’t play out the way you hope. It’s frustrating, and sometimes feels quite futile. Diabetes is finicky, inconvenient at best and relentless. And diabetics have to be relentless to stay on top of it.
To me, the tax credit isn’t even about the money (though, as a university student, a few extra dollars is always appreciated!), but about the recognition of all the time and effort that goes into my healthcare on a daily basis. The current system really makes me feel as though everything I do to manage this disease isn’t legitimate, or appreciated in the slightest.
Something needs to change and soon!!
As for the grant for students with disabilities, and my doctor’s refusal to sign for it – well, that’s a whole other rant I don’t have the energy for right now. But in the end, my GP signed it because I do have other disabilities. It still shouldn’t be a question though. Diabetes impacts my functioning and ability as a student on a regular basis, so why is it not considered a permanent disability in relation to my studies? I know plenty of other diabetics apply successfully for this grant, so maybe (and I do, and I will) need to see a new endo. (this situation only fuels my “I’m too sick to be considered healthy but too healthy to be considered sick” internal conflict that I struggle with. but that’s another post in itself!)
and oh yeah! tomorrow is World Diabetes Day so wear blue to show your support!!