Advocacy & Student Rights
While you may not realize, you have rights on campus as a person living with diabetes. Check out the information below to find out what you should know about your rights on campus.
Registering for Accommodations
Many students with diabetes don’t register with their school’s Disability/Auxiliary Services office – but why not?! Some students simply don’t know that it’s an option, and some are just completely turned off by the idea. We hear you, but give us a few minutes to explain why you should register.
Reasons to Register for Accommodations
- Plan before an emergency. If you aren’t registered for accommodations, you aren’t guaranteed any sort of accommodations for any problems that may arise due to your diabetes. You cannot register for accommodations retroactively, therefore if you fail/miss a test because of low or high blood sugar, and you haven’t registered, you’ll have to accept the grade.
- Don’t sell yourself short. It is scientifically proven that low or high blood sugar can seriously affect your academic performance. Perhaps you can get a passing grade on a test while your blood sugar is 300, but imagine what you’d get if you weren’t. Set yourself up for success.
- Advocate for yourself. Most professors are extremely accommodating, but once in a while you encounter a professor that isn’t. Registering with disabilities overrides whatever rules they’ve established around food and drink in the classroom, the use of technology (“texting” on your pump), ability to make up exams, etc.
- Don’t let diabetes limit you. Accommodations can also extend to housing, dining, and registering for classes. For example where you live, roommate situations, meal plans, and early class registration.
How Do I Register for Accommodations?
- Identify who is in charge of accommodations. Each campus is different. The office in charge of accommodations could be called Disability Services, Auxiliary Services, Accessibility Services, etc. Try searching “disability services” and “Your Campus Name” to find the office you should connect with. Still unsure? Try checking in with the health center, residential life staff or student affairs.
- Register as soon as you get to campus. Reach out to the office responsible for accommodations as soon as you get to school, or even right before. Many campuses offer a very brief window for students to register for accommodations, so don’t miss it.
- Provide appropriate documentation. While every campus is different, according to the American Diabetes Association, it’s a good idea to have the following documentation from your doctor:
- A diagnosis of your diabetes along with its symptoms (Believe it or not, not everyone is familiar with diabetes or what it means.)
- An explanation of how your diabetes is a disability
- A request for specific modifications along with an explanation on why they are appropriate (See sample accommodations below)
Sample Accommodations from the ADA's Advocacy Guide for Students
While these are some of the most basic accommodations you can ask for/expect, everyone is different. It’s up to you to communicate with the staff in charge of accommodations about what else you may need. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself.
- Permission to reschedule my exam if, at the time of my exam, my blood glucose is out of target range because either high or low blood glucose impair my cognitive function.
- Permission to eat/drink in class.
- Permission to perform diabetes care in class.
- Early class registration in order to maintain a specific schedule.
Highlights from the ADA's Advocacy Guide for Students
The American Diabetes Association's Going to College with Diabetes: A Self Advocacy Guide for Students, is a wonderful resource with a lot of information. Check out some of the highlights from the Guide below.
- Sample Medical Documentation for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes
- Sample Request for Accommodations Letter
- Sample Accommodations Letter from College
- Diabetes basics for students and postsecondary institution officials
- Accommodations for internships, clinics, and work
- Accommodations for standardized tests and licensing exams
- Diabetes is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Colleges must provide certain modifications for students living with diabetes (such as allowing students to eat snacks during exams.)
- Unlike elementary and secondary schools, colleges have no responsibility to identify students with disabilities.
- Colleges are generally prohibited from inquiring about disabilities during the admissions process, so there is no need to feel pressure to mention that you have diabetes until after an admission decision has been made, and financial aid has been awarded.
- Even if you do not think you need modifications, it is important to recognize that the need for them can arise unexpectedly and you are not generally entitled to retroactive modifications. For example, if you have a serious high or low blood sugar before an exam and need to postpone, but you did not tell any college official about your medical condition at the time, you may not be able to do so.
- In order to ensure that you are eligible for modifications should you need them, contact your college’s disability services office as soon as possible once you accept their offer.
- Some of the modifications you can expect, should you need them, most likely include: Ability to reschedule an exam if your blood sugar is out of range, freedom to keep/use diabetes supplies, and eat, whenever you need to, and taking breaks during exams to address diabetes related care.
- In internships and paid jobs, as long as you are qualified for your position, you cannot be discriminated against because of your diabetes in the workplace.
- At the first sign of trouble, or even if you just have more specific questions about your rights, please call 1-800-DIABETES.