Would You Carry A Disabled Card Because You Have Diabetes?

I couldn’t let the opportunity of spending time in Poland go by, without discovering what it’s like for people with diabetes to live and work in the country, and discover more about Polish culture. I know from my opinions formed before attending the IDF youth leadership camp, and then discovering diabetes on a European scale, that it’s easy to assume that diabetes in other countries is the same as your own. Especially where European diabetes might be concerned anyway, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I think we can all learn from each other with our diabetes, treatment and experiences, I want to take the opportunity to share my observation of diabetes care in Poland.

The first main difference that I became aware of whilst speaking people in Poland about their diabetes, was that people with diabetes in Poland have to pay for their medication. (Which includes the diabetes related medication too). They don’t have to pay to see the doctor, but when they’re prescribed something they have to pay the expense of the prescripton. Which when you consider that the average minimum wage for young people in Poland is about £1 an hour, it’s really quite shocking. If you have diabetes and you think about the blood strips, blood glucose monitor, insulin, needles, pump supplies, dextrose etc etc you need and if you had to pay for it, it would soon add up!

Perhaps what I find most fascinating about having diabetes in Poland, if fascinating is the right word, is that people with the condition are classed as disabled. People with diabetes explained to me that there is what I would describe as a tiered system for people living with disabilities in Poland. With level 1 for people with impairments such as blindness, and also including those who need to use a wheelchair. Level 2 is reserved for people with diabetes and then there is also a level 3 for other disabilities. If you live in the UK, I’d like you to consider how you would feel if the government decided to class those of us with diabetes as disabled? It’s quite an emotive and current topic of debate at the moment, as I saw just the other day on social media that there had been outcry about how difficult some people were finding it to qualify for disability living allowance in the UK if they had diabetes. Now consider if you were asked to carry around a ‘disabled’ card with your photograph on, to identify your diabetes as a disability, which is what happens in Poland.

But far be it from a negative experience, people with diabetes appear to benefit greatly from their disability status in Poland. As it can often mean that 70%-90% of their employment wages are subsidised by the government. As I understand it there is still a stigma around having diabetes in Poland, which can lead to some people keeping their condition quiet. So this wage subsidy rule helps employers to employ equal opportunities in the work place. The disabled card also means that people with diabetes and their ‘carers’ travel on public transport at a discounted rate. Which is another positive, as the cost of petrol in Poland was almost the same as that in the UK, and when the average monthly wage is £400, buying and running a car is very expensive. Finally another positive is that people with diabetes in Poland can only work for 7 hours per day maximum. But they are still paid a full-time wage.

In my personal opinion I think there’s a lot to learn in the UK about the disability status of people with diabetes. You might think that as someone who fights rigorously to communicate the message of positivity and overcoming adversity, that I would be in fact adverse to gaining disability status. But on balance I’m curious as to whether it would work in the UK, and what the repercussions would be if it became law for people with diabetes to carry a disability card. When I went onto my insulin pump especially, the question often crossed my mind as to where people with diabetes fit in the spectrum of conditions and I’ve never really come to a definitive answer. So what do you think? Is diabetes disability status something that you would advocate for in the UK, or is it a way to single out those that are different?



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My blog takes you through a daily look at sport, diabetes and everything in between. As an athlete that lives with type 1 diabetes I want to let you into news, views and all that is important to both of my passions.

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