You & Your Family
Saturday, 26 May 2012 02:30
By D Francis
Antigua St John's - Co-ordinator of the Antigua and Barbuda Society of and for the Blind Jacqueline Tweed-Harris wants members of the public to show more compassion and respect for white cane users.
She spoke out passionately against the level of discrimination being meted out to the visually impaired, noting that the blind deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
Tweed-Harris made the remarks as the organisation celebrates 60 years of service to the nation with a week of activities during Blindness Awareness Month, celebrated every year in May.
Tweed-Harris noted “when members of the public see blind persons travelling with a white cane, most of them don’t really know what it represents, they figure that they are just using it for support, but the cane is like their eyes, they use it to feel in front of them, to provide safety, exploring the area, for identification and to alert the public that the user has a visual impairment.”
She appealed to people who observe white cane users standing at the side of the road trying to cross the street to kindly offer assistance instead of standing by and watching these people struggle under the eyes of impatient motorists.
Meanwhile, Tweed-Harris wants both teachers and parents to do their part to ensure that "teething" eye problems do not escalate among young children.
The group along with Optometrist Dr. Jillia Birds paid a visit to a number of schools where 300 students were screened. She said some of the findings had to be referred to eye care specialist.
"Some of these eye problems that students are complaining about they can be corrected, they don’t have to affect them all their lives if the right help is accessed early," she said.
"Some may just need corrective lens to rectify the situation. Also we encourage parents and teachers to observe their children if a child complains often that he/she cannot see the board properly, observe how they hold the book to read, see if they hold it too far or too near, how they see to write take note of these things and seek help.”
Tweed-Harris said a number of assessment forms were left at the schools visited for continuous evaluation.
“We have a vibrant screening at TN Kirnon School, sometimes, a child may miss school when eye screening is being done, so people can access the service at TN Kirnon and make referrals if required, it’s easier to identify eye problems at a younger age.”
Tweed-Harris said the incidence of blindness/visual impairment has been increasing based on a several reasons.
“We are seeing children being born with diabetes - jaundice more kids are being born with it and if you don’t work on that early it can become a major problem," she said. "Also when you are 40-Plus, your vision will never be the same, so you have to make certain changes and adjust. Once you have diabetes, you can develop glaucoma/cataracts, and steps must be taken to guard against these diseases.”
She lauded the public both local and overseas for their generous support over the years and urged them to continue. The week of activities culminates this weekend with an awards banquet where the longest serving member of the board, the longest society member and the society’s platinum donor, the Mill Reef Club which has been with them for over 15 years, will be honoured.