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A Special Thank You

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: Anne-Marie and Randy Seitz are members of the Blind Children and Youth Parents Association.

We would like to express our sincerest thanks to the NFB: AE for giving us a great opportunity. Financially we couldn't have done it without you. In May of this year we attended a MACS (Micro Anophthalmia Children's Society) conference in The United Kingdom. This conference was our first opportunity to meet with families with children who were born with the same eye condition as our eight-year-old daughter Amanda, who was born without eyes and now wears prosthesis. Our time with MACS turned out to be a very informative, heart-warming experience. We were welcomed with open arms and asked many questions.

While our services differ quite a bit in Canada compared to those of the United Kingdom. we don't seem to have done too badly. I think. The UK seems to be more "blind friendly" than home. Things such as audible signals and tactile bricks at all curbs, according to parents we talked with seem to be the same country wide. Schools seem to be about fifty percent each mainstream and private schools for the blind. A lot of parents have tried both types of schools, but have settled for what was best for their child. In the UK there also seems to be a lot of service organisations for the blind. We counted over ten in the Manchester phone book alone; some national and others local. Parents there seem to get more support and information about what to do as parents of a blind child. This is something no one seems to receive here unless they are an expert at advocacy, and know exactly what you are looking for. People in UK also receive more help financially for those in similar situations.

Disabilities are categorised and benefits are given according to severity. For example, totally blind youngsters are given highest priority because their condition must be constantly monitored. Their families are also given a subsidy for one parent to stay home with the child, as well as a new vehicle every three years; maintenance and insurance included. The amount of assistance works out to about $2500 a month. This would have been very nice when Amanda was little!

During the conference we attended seminars regarding prosthetic care; something we all need help with as parents of these children. There is nothing worse than eye infection that can be caused by a mere speck of dust. We learned how to deal with some of the more embarrassing situations too such as: What to do when your two- year-old decides the middle of the restaurant is a good place to take her eyes out. Or what to do when, at day-care, your child gives her eyes to her friends because they haven't any like them. We were even given little books to read to our children about their "special" eyes. This is something I'd never seen here, and we will be sure to pass this on to our oculist.

All in all, we found the conference to be an eye-opening experience for both of us and our child. We found, in travelling half way across the world, on all forms of public transportation that the accommodations provided for the disabled at airports etc. are far more advanced here in Canada.

For anyone wishing to know more about our experiences, feel free to e-mail us at a3a11079@mail.bc.sympatico.ca

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