Diabetes Forecast

A Workplace Victory

Daniel O'Hern

I am a paramedic with type 1 diabetes (diagnosed at 4 years old). I got my job after a battle with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), in which Diabetes Forecast played a role.

After earning my emergency medical technician (EMT) license in 2009, I applied to the DMV for an ambulance driver’s certificate in hopes of earning a job as an EMT. I found that California uses the same standards for ambulance drivers as the federal government does for commercial truck drivers: People who require the use of insulin cannot be qualified to drive an ambulance in California. The DMV rejected my application.

I appealed the decision. I’ve had no complications involving loss of consciousness or diabetic ketoacidosis. My driving record is spotless. Still, the DMV rejected my appeal because I use insulin.

Crushed by the defeat, I contacted the American Diabetes Association, which connected me with attorney Dale Larabee. Ten years earlier, he had won a similar case for a woman with diabetes named Sarah Garrison. This is where Diabetes Forecast comes in. In September 2001, the magazine ran an article on Garrison and Larabee’s fight against the DMV. I asked for a copy of the article and quickly received it. It served both to direct my battle and to inspire me to continue the fight.

I reapplied to the DMV. I was met with roadblocks; one DMV employee told me my case was simple to fix: I just had to stop using insulin for a while! After nearly a year during which I conducted hundreds of hours of research, I flew to San Diego for a hearing on getting an ambulance driver’s certificate. This is the step at which Sarah Garrison won her case.

Unfortunately, after a three-month wait, I did not win. I felt even more dejected. With the help of Larabee and attorney Bill Barnum (both have children with type 1 diabetes), I filed a civil suit against the DMV.

After more months of legal battles, we were finally able to settle in January 2013. I was granted an ambulance driver’s certificate! Today I work as a paramedic, and I can both drive and care for patients. This battle would not have been possible without the Sarah Garrison article. Thank you very much for your support!

Daniel O’Hern, McKinleyville, Calif.

The Editors respond: Daniel O’Hern is one of the many people with diabetes who have successfully fought discrimination in the workplace, at school, or in a variety of public places thanks to the American Diabetes Association’s legal advocacy efforts. If you are being treated unfairly because of your diabetes, call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) to request help from a Legal Advocate.



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