17-year-old Lowri Jones left the DVLA offices in tears. She had been thrown out of the theory test, accused of cheating. And all because she has type 1 diabetes.

Lowri, who was diagnosed type 1 at the age of 12, was banned for taking her blood glucose monitor into the test with her, despite having checked with the officials that it would be alright. The officials, clearly unaware of Lowri’s condition, decided it was an “inappropriate” item, and assumed it was being used to cheat.

“When I arrived, I explained to them that I was diabetic so I would have my reader on me,” Lowri explained.

“It’s important to me that I keep that with me because I’ve had fits in the past. I was told it was okay, the staff saw me go in and sit down but with 10 questions left, my reader was taken off me and I was led out.

“I was told I’d been disqualified for taking an item in with me and asked to gather my things and leave.

“It was really humiliating and people were probably thinking I was cheating when I wasn’t. It was so embarrassing and it’s not my fault I need my blood reader. I went up to my mum in tears afterwards, I was so embarrassed.”

It’s tempting to blame the staff at the DVLA, but that wouldn’t really be fair. They were, after all, only following the rules, which state that all personal items must be locked away during the test. They didn’t know what the meter was, and treated it with suspicion. It’s their job to ensure nobody is cheating, and they didn’t know any better.

Rather, Lowri’s story highlights the sad lack of diabetes awareness among the general population. Because the condition is so poorly understood, people like the DVLA staff don’t know it when they see it; they don’t know that it might be a vital piece of healthcare equipment. With greater awareness, the rules probably wouldn’t be as strict as they are regarding bringing items into the exam as they are.

Things are slowly changing. A recent petition urges the government to include the symptoms of type 1 diabetes in “the red book” given to all new parents when their baby is born. When the petition hits 10,000 signatures, the government are obliged to take it into account.

So it’s best to spend our time supporting greater diabetes awareness, rather than criticising individuals who, through no fault of their own, don’t know any better. Besides, the DVLA’s response has been exemplary:

“We apologise for any inconvenience to the candidate and have arranged for her to retake the test free of charge.

“We will also be reviewing our procedures with regards to essential medical equipment being allowed into the exam room,” said DVSA head of theory test contract management Elizabeth Smith.

Image source: Mirror.co.uk.

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