Diabetic pilot hailed as an inspiration to others

by Sarita Sheth on November 10, 2012

Diabetics often face discrimination in the workplace

An airline pilot has told how he copes with a demanding job after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the condition.

Stephen Steele fought against systematic barriers to pursue his dreams and is an inspiration to anyone, especially those who have experienced the challenges of living with diabetes, said the Canadian Diabetes Association.

In 1986, after working for eight years as a commercial airline pilot for Air Canada, he was suddenly grounded after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

‘If you run up against a roadblock in the things you want to do, look for ways around the roadblock and don’t just end it there,’ he said.

He did just that. Rather than accept defeat, Stephen went back to school to become a lawyer to advocate for changes in international aviation standards. He successfully returned to the cockpit in 2003 as the first person in the world to fly as the captain of a commercial airliner while taking insulin.

‘I think there is a pay forward requirement here. If you are able to change things for the better for somebody, you have an obligation to do it for them,’ he added.

According to Suzanne Sterling, regional director for the Canadian Diabetes Association, people with diabetes may face discrimination in the workplace simply because they have diabetes.

‘Most people with diabetes can perform their job duties with minimal accommodation, such as nutrition breaks, time for glucose level monitoring, appropriate area for glucose monitoring, and/or injection of insulin,’ she explained.

‘In being considered for employment in safety sensitive positions, a person with diabetes has the right to be assessed for specific job duties on his or her own merits based on reasonable standards applied consistently,’ Sterling added.

Type 1 diabetes, usually diagnosed in children and adolescents, occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin, a hormone that controls the amount of glucose in the blood. Around 10% of people with diabetes have type 1 diabetes.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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