According to the World Health Organisation, four times as many people have Type II diabetes today compared to 36 years ago.
Globally about 1.5 million people died as a direct result of diabetes in 2012.
Statistics also show that 7% of adults aged between 21 and 79 (3.85 million people) are being diagnosed with diabetes.
The numbers don’t lie – diabetes is a chronic illness – but does this make it a disability?
Justene Smith, disability specialist at Progression Transformation Enablers (Progression), sheds some light on the situation.
“There is no list in place that stipulates if a condition or illness is definitely a disability or not.
“This is partly because conditions are experienced differently from one person to the next.
“When determining whether a certain condition, like diabetes, can be classified as a disability, we must turn to the Employment Equity Act.” According to the act, people with disabilities are those who have a long-term or recurring physical, including sensory, or mental impairment, which substantially limits their prospect of entry into or advancement in employment.
For diabetes to be classified as a disability under the act, it needs to meet the requirements of the definition.
Diabetes is a long-term condition and falls within the first part of the definition, says Smith. Secondly, diabetes can be considered a physical impairment because this is defined as a total or partial loss of a body part or function.
“In most cases, diabetes can be managed by medication and diet, and therefore does not substantially limit a person’s prospect of entry into or advancement in employment.
“Generally diabetes, if well managed, would not be considered a disability as per the Employment Equity Act definition.”
In addition, diabetes can result in other conditions which may be considered a disability.
For example, long-term poorly controlled diabetes can often result in renal failure, glaucoma, strokes and lower limb amputation.