The Simon Heng column

As I have type-two diabetes – another of my triumphs in the lottery
of life – I need to take an eye test every year. The staff of the
local opticians are used to me trundling in, disrupting their
furniture with my wheelchair and adjusting all the mirrors to my

So I was surprised to find myself at the business end of
discrimination when I went to choose a pair of glasses. I was
answering the optician’s questions and responding to her remarks in
what I thought was a responsive way. Although my carer was with me,
she, as usual, didn’t take part in the conversation: why should
she? These were my eyes, my glasses, my business, although, as a
friend, I had asked her opinion about style.

But the optician kept directing her remarks at my carer. Questions
were directed the same way – even though I was the one answering.
Even when my carer responded by saying that the optician should
direct her remarks to me, this lasted for one question. Even when I
asked her to speak to me directly, she carried on talking to my
carer. It is as if she couldn’t actually believe that I could make
my own decisions – even when she was presented with my credit card,
with my name and signature on it, and when I signed the receipt.

I was more exasperated and bemused than angry or upset. We laughed
out of relief when we had left the shop, and tried to work out if
there was a way to interpret her behaviour that wasn’t

I thought that the optician might have mistaken my carer for a
bossy daughter (she is 20 years younger than me). My carer thought
that the optician might have mistaken her for my wife, and after we
finished laughing again, she pointed out that I could have been a
sugar daddy (tacky, I know).

So, next day, when I read that where disabled people were concerned
successful claims of discrimination had risen by 89 per cent in the
past year, I wasn’t surprised.

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