Will diabetes keep me from getting a job? What jobs can diabetics do?

It didn't keep actress Mary Tyler Moore, radio and TV personality Gary Owens, hockey star Bobby Clarke, prominent physician Peter Forsham or McDonald's restaurant tycoon Ray Krock from getting the jobs they wanted. Why would it keep you from any career you choose? The truth is that the great majority of diabetics have the same employment opportunities and limitations as nondiabetics. So if you're qualified for a particular position, go after it positively and aggressively. Be up front about your diabetes. If the subject comes up with an employer, point out that diabetes develops a sane lifestyle and great self discipline. These in turn lead to a superior performance on the job.

For the one million or so diabetics who take insulin, we do have to report on a few negatives. You should avoid jobs where you could endanger yourself or others during insulin reactions. It wouldn't be wise for you to seek jobs with highspeed machinery or climbing telephone poles, for example. Legally, there are certain restrictions, too. The federal government does not allow diabetics on insulin to enter the armed forces, to pilot airplanes, or to drive trucks or buses in interstate commerce. Also, it's inadvisable to aim for certain jobs with long and irregular working hours combined with potential emergency situations like police officer, firefighter, or airline flight attendants.

If you should run into job discrimination because of diabetes, don't hesitate to fight it. Federal regulations have made it illegal for most major employers to reject you solely because you have diabetes. You can file a complaint if you run into this situation. The law which protects you is Title V of the Rehabilitation Act passed by Congress in 1973. For details on how to file, write the American Diabetes Association for a copy of "Employment Opportunities and Protections for Diabetics." Before this law came into effect, diabetics sometimes did have to resort to extremes to get jobs. A friend of ours told us that her husband, who has diabetes, desperately needed a job when they were first married and he had just graduated from college as a chemical engineer. She was pregnant. They had no money. Jobs were in short supply and he couldn't afford to take chances losing an opportunity because of diabetes. He heard of an opening with an engineering firm. He knew this firm required a physical before hiring. So he smuggled a little vial of his wife's urine into the examination with him. When he was asked to provide a specimen, he provided hers.

When he came home, his wife asked him how his scheme had worked. "Great," he said, "they didn't suspect a thing." Then his face clouded. "Say," he said, "what if they run some kind of test on that urine and it shows that I'm pregnant?" They didn't and he got the job.

One admonition. We talked to the head of the handicapped program on the college campus where we work. He said that after he had fought reluctant employers, citing Title V, and finally managed to get certain of his students jobs, they would work for a short period of time and then try to get a semiphony disability retirement based on the very health problem he had claimed wouldn't affect their performance. This calls the whole program into question and makes it hard if not impossible for others with similar health problems to get jobs later on to say nothing about how it shreds the moral fiber of the person crying disabled wolf.


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