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Bc Parents Organize Blind Children & Youth: Parents' Association of British Columbia (A Division of The National Federation of The Blind:advocates For Equality)

Saturday, April 12, a group of energetic and determined parents met to organize the Blind Children & Youth: Parents' Association of British Columbia (BCYPA). The NFB:AE worked to spearhead the development of a parents' association because educational services to blind children across BC vary widely in their quantity and quality. Some parents have told us they believe their children are being adequately served. Others are nearly despairing at the lack of service and the poor quality of information they are receiving. It was clear that something needed to be done.

Parents in BC have organized before. The Association for Visually Impaired Students (AVIS) did excellent work over the past decade. There is, however, a built in self-destruct mechanism in most parent organizations. As blind children grow older, their needs change. They begin to advocate for themselves and parents step back as their children gradually take over adult responsibilities for their own future. This is extremely beneficial for blind children, but it is hard on organizations.

A parents' organization within the NFB:AE has the benefit of calling upon the experiences of blind adults who have been through the education system and know what they need to compete successfully as adults. Their historical perspective and wealth of experience is a distinct advantage for parents of young children. Parents with accurate information have a better chance of forming reasonable expections for their children. In addition, the constant support and encouragement of blind adults helps parents with the transition as their children grow older and also provides stability as new parents begin participating in the organization. Above all, blind children can grow and learn in a positive community which includes blind adults. Every child needs role models.

After discussing all of the advantages of being part of the organized blind movement, parents at the April 12 meeting elected officers to guide the growth of the organization over the next year. The president of BCYPA is Archie McNab, Vice President is Sigrid McNab. Their six-year-old blind daughter, Maddy, is a kindergarten student in Coombs, BC, a small community on Vancouver Island. The organization's secretary, Elizabeth Jager, is the mother of four-year-old Simon. Elizabeth lives on the Sunshine Coast. Treasurer Joyce Mainland's fourteen-year-old daughter, Sarah, is an eighth grade student in Kelowna.

BCYPA has ambitious plans for educating the public and Ministry officials concerning the needs and aspirations of blind children. There is no doubt that educational programs will benefit from the active partnership of parents and blind adults within the NFB:AE.