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Blind Pupil Banned From Using Cane

View profile for Nathan Davies
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In the news this week a blind seven-year-old girl was told by her school that she can no longer use her white cane. The primary school in Bristol fear that Lilly-Grace’s walking cane could trip up teachers and other pupils.

Hambrook Primary School has said that a risk assessment completed on behalf of the school identified that the cane caused a high risk to other people. They have therefore decided that Lily-Grace should have “100 percent” adult support at all times.

Her concerned mother, Kirsty Hooper, now worries that this will have an effect on the youngster’s independence and development. In a statement made to The Telegraph she said:

"It is a disability, but I want to celebrate it and make sure she can become independent. 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.”

Lilly-Grace began using the cane in April this year having asked her mother for one that was then provided by Common Sense Cane, a charity for blind children. Since then, her mother has said that it has become “an extension of her daughter’s arm”.

The overriding issue with Lilly-Grace using the cane appears to be health and safety; but what about the individual needs of a child with disabilities? Her mother stated that there hadn’t been any problems with any of the other students, and there had in fact been no accidents caused by the cane at the school. In a separate comment, Kirsty Hooper added that the school staff and pupils had been very supportive of her daughter’s decision to use a cane.

This story has caused outrage amongst many, with people believing that health and safety has come before the needs of a young child who is merely seeking independence. As Sarah Murray from the charity Common Sense Cane said, its important for children to learn to be independent from a very young age. She also believes that this would not be the case if Lilly-Grace was an adult, commenting, “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."

With Lilly-Grace now having constant adult support at school, much to the disappointment of her mother, how is this likely to affect her development and independence as a pupil at Hambrook Primary School? And how much say should parents have when it comes to their child’s support at school?

In these types of situations, Local Authorities and schools must have regard to their duties under the Equality Act 2010. This case specifically raises issues of direct discrimination given that she is being treated unfavourably by the school as a result of her disability. What the school also appear to have overlooked is their duty to make reasonable adjustments under the Act, therefore they are legally obliged to support her by ensuring she is able to use a cane or other such aid, thereby overriding their health and safety concerns.

We deal with varying situations when it comes to education law, so with our professional expertise and a team of dedicated solicitors in the sector we can assist you with any concerns you have if you consider your child is being discriminated against.

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