Why should a government agency care? Why does your employer—current or future—need to know? What difference does it make?
I’ve been thinking about these questions lately because a few days ago I got a notice requesting information to be entered in a jury pool.
And about 6 months ago, I applied for a Maryland driver’s license. In both cases, one of the questions was “Do you have a health condition that would interfere with your ability to [drive/ serve on a jury]?”
What’s the answer?
In both cases, I answered No. After all I’m physically fit and mentally sharp. My hearing is excellent. My eyesight is good (after I put in my contact lenses), and I have no sign of eye diseases, such as retinopathy, macular degeneration, or glaucoma.
I do, however, have Type 2 diabetes.
Why that’s the right answer
You may be thinking, wait a minute! I remember that you yourself described Type 2 diabetes as a chronic, progressive disease. You said that chronic means that there’s no cure, and progressive means that it gets worse over time.
I did say that, and it does get worse over time—if it’s not well-managed. But mine is well managed. I eat a healthful diet, exercise, monitor my blood glucose, and get regular medical check-ups.
Even with all that, though, I sometimes become hypoglycemic (meaning that I experience low blood glucose), especially between meals. When this happens I feel lightheaded, weak, and very hungry. Depending on how low my blood glucose goes, I may be sweaty and have what I call “fog-brain.”
I try hard to avoid hypoglycemia by checking my blood glucose, especially before a long drive or even a long walk. I keep energy bars in the house and in my car and in my fanny-pack when I go for a walk. I carry my cell-phone and a home-made medical card with relevant health information and contact information for my doctor and my BF. An Eagle Scout could not be better prepared.
What about job applications?
Employment questionnaires often ask a variant of the health question: Do you have any condition which would interfere with your ability to do the job for which you’re applying?
I would answer No to that question too and for the same reasons.
What if you develop a health condition after you get the job? Should you tell anyone then?
Because Type 2 diabetes is common—even epidemic, in the U.S. and many other countries— it’s a good example of a health condition which could possibly interfere with your ability to do a particular job.
I think that there are compelling reasons to tell your supervisor and assorted co-workers, if you have Type 2 diabetes. If you have Type 1 diabetes, it’s essential. The reason is that people need to know what to do if something goes wrong while you’re at work.
At my last job Paula, a woman with Type 1 diabetes, became dangerously hypoglycemic one afternoon. Her blood glucose went so low that she couldn’t speak. She was unable to respond to simple questions, such as “How old are your children?”
Because several of us knew that she had Type 1 diabetes, we quickly deduced what was wrong, summoned help, and told the emergency medical technicians what was happening. After treatment she recovered quickly and later that afternoon was able to drive herself home.
I was on a telecon one day which went on much longer than I expected. I had not eaten lunch, and I became hypoglycemic. I rushed down to the cafeteria to get some food and brought it to the weekly staff meeting. My brain was feeling fairly foggy, when my supervisor (let’s call him George) turned to me and asked, “What do you think about that, Madeleine?”
What I thought about that was that I had no idea what he was talking about.
The brain is a real glucose-guzzler. It can’t make glucose or store it. It needs to get its supply from the blood vessels. When the supply runs low, the brain slows down. It gets foggy. It becomes challenging to answer simple questions.
If a person is dangerously hypoglycemic, as Paula was, she may be unable to speak. (Paula’s blood glucose levels had become extremely low due to a very unusual circumstance. It’s a long story.)
I was able to say that I was feeling a bit hypoglycemic, and George nodded understandingly. In short order, I was feeling fine again and able to join the discussion.
Should I just say No on a job application then?
Based on my experience, I’d suggest that you should not just say NO. If you don’t have a health condition which interferes with your ability to do the job for which you’re applying, you should say NO.
But if you do have such a condition, you should say so. Then you can describe what special accommodations you would need in order to perform the job.
If you have experience with a health condition which affects your ability to work or drive (even temporarily or from time to time) or any suggestions, I’d apreciate hearing from you.