|December 20, 2003|
Previously published on December 2003
The Department of Transportation has announced exemptions from previous safety regulations for certain drivers of interstate commercial motor vehicles who have insulin-dependent diabetes. New standards provide that the exemption will be granted only to those applicants who meet specific conditions and comply with certain requirements. The bending of policy reflects the thinking of many disabilities law practitioners and some courts that currently available medical treatment and supplies for people with diabetes justify individualized assessments before people are excluded from jobs that require driving.
In 2002, the Fifth Circuit court reversed its earlier decision articulating a per se rule that individuals with insulin-dependent diabetes were unqualified for jobs that required driving. In Kapache v. San Antonio it cited "such medical advancements as portable glucose monitors, routine hemoglobin testing, improved insulin delivery systems, and improved insulin," in concluding that police officers with insulin-dependent diabetes must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis before determining that they pose a threat to others while driving.
Michael Green, an attorney for Kapache and a coordinator for advocacy efforts of the American Diabetes Association, said the restrictions on people with insulin-dependent diabetes have been the "single largest barrier to employment" in jobs that require driving, even when driving is not the primary function of the job. Extensive data on insulin-dependent drivers show that they are as safe or safer than drivers in the general population, according to Green. He predicted that the exemptions will have a "tremendous spillover effect."
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has begun taking applications for the exemptions.