‘Because it could trip up teachers’
Hambrook Primary School has banned 7-year-old Lilly-Grace Hooper from using her walking cane because there is a ‘health and safety’ risk. The girl from North Bristol was left blind in her right eye and only able to see colors in her left eye after she suffered a stroke when she was just four days old.
Earlier this year a charity called Common Sense Cane was able to donate Grace a fibreglass walking cane after she started using cardboard tubes to guide herself at home last year around December.
The little girl, who is a keen ballet dancer, had just started gaining her own independence while walking around the school grounds with her walking cane.
A video which her mother took shows just how much Grace became dependent on her cane.
She was told by the school that her walking cane posed a risk to others around her after a safety assessment. They added on that she should have full adult support at all times and to just “walk carefully over all surfaces’.
This is what mother Kristy had to say about it:
‘When the school told me she can no longer bring her cane into school, I just thought this must be health and safety gone mad.
‘She hasn’t had any problems with any of the other students, and none of the parents have complained about it – in fact, they have all been very supportive.
‘I don’t understand where the school is coming from…Lily-Grace has taken to the cane very quickly, and she needs it as she travels to school, walks to the playground, or just being in school…I am absolutely livid. What about the health and safety of my girl? I like the school, they are a good school, but this really is very poor advice.
‘It’s just ridiculous. If you took a walking cane away from a blind adult, you would say that was discrimination. It’s the same here.’
The founder of Common Sense Canese, Sarah Murray, who donated a stick to Lily-Grace, calls it ‘absolute nonsense’.
She added on, ‘I’ve heard about this health and safety reasons, and I just cannot fathom what the school is thinking. Why are they taking a cane away from a little girl?’
Blind Children UK, a charity for vision-impaired children, also added on that it was imperative a child learned independence from a young age.
That, ‘Using a cane teaches a child to keep themselves safe and can help them to become less reliant on others.
‘While a cane may not be suitable for every child or young person with sight loss, if they are taught how to use it by a trained habilitation specialist, then, in general, there shouldn’t be an issue with using one safely around school.’
Ms Hooper is now worried her daughter will become dependent on having someone show her around, and a helper would set her daughter apart from the rest of her class.
She added: ‘It is a disability, but I want to celebrate it and make sure she can become independent.’
Jo Dent, the school head, said that they would discuss the situation with the family.
She said: ‘The school’s mobility officer raised health and safety issues around the new cane following a recent risk assessment.
‘We have to consider all of our pupils, so it is important that we have an opportunity to discuss the situation before we make any decisions.
‘We are very keen to resolve this issue as soon as possible and have been actively seeking to engage with the parent to bring this to an agreeable conclusion.
‘The pupil has not been banned from bringing in their cane, we have simply asked them to not use it around school as a temporary measure until we have the chance to meet with the parent and discuss the situation.
‘It was initially hoped that we would have this resolved within a day or two.’