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Poor sight won't stop me reading to my grandson; Your Life daily STORYTIME can offer special moments of love and intimacy between parent and child. But what if the parent or the child has a visual impairment?

Byline: KAREN HAMBRIDGE

Your Life daily STORYTIME can offer special moments of love and intimacy between parent and child. But what if the parent or the child has a visual impairment? A little-known charity is working to ensure being blind is no barrier to storytime. And even the likes of comedian Matt Lucas and best selling author Jacqueline Wilson are on board. KAREN HAMBRIDGE speaks to one mum who used the books with her own children and now with her grandson.

WHEN Lisza Hoyer was first diagnosed with Usher Syndrome she was determined it wouldn't stop her doing the things she loved - and that included reading stories to her two youngest daughters.

Lisza, a community development worker, went along to an exhibition for those with visual impairment and came across the charity Living Paintings.

The charity adapts popular children's storybooks for those who are blind or partially sighted by adding colourful, raised, plastic images, Braille inserts and developing an audio guide.

The adaptations means children with sight problems can read for themselves and parents who are visually impaired can continue with storytelling.

Lisza was delighted. "I thought the books were fabulous," said the 41-year-old who lives with daughters, Kendall, 17 and Chanel 15 in Lillington, Leamington.

"They are very touchy-feely and the first page is like a 3-D picture. Then there are Braille sheets which tell the story. It's a fantastic idea."

Lisza began using the books to read to her youngest daughters, then aged three and five.

The storytelling offered Lisza precious time with her children and also became a valuable tool in increasing their awareness of her condition.

"It was wonderful because it made me feel normal," said Lisza. "I could still read to my children and enjoy those moments with them.

"It was also a useful way of getting the girls accustomed to the fact that I couldn't see well.

"It was a gentle way of introducing them to my disability." More than a decade on and Lisza is now reading the storybooks with her 30-month-old grandson, Charlie, her eldest daughter Christelle's little boy. "Charlie has two adoring aunties so I don't get much of a look in," laughs Lisza, who is learning sign language. "So it's lovely to be able to sit down with Charlie and spend some quality time reading with him.

"It's special time for him too because the books are so different to the usual storybooks and he's always interested in what's inside.

"I can make out some of the larger writing in the books but I also use the Braille. It's a great way to read with the children without feeling as though I'm struggling."

Fact File

USHER SYNDROME

PEOPLE with Usher Syndrome are born deaf, either profoundly or partially, and then develop an eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa.

RETINITIS PIGMENTOSA (RP) affects the retina at the back of the eye, causing it to slowly deteriorate and become less able to send information to the brain.

SIGHT loss often begins in late childhood. People with RP initially become night blind then lose side vision. Usually reading vision can remain reasonably good.

MANY people do not realise they have Usher until they begin to have problems with their sight and coming to terms with both deafness and visual impairment can be very hard.

FOR every 100 people born deaf three to six will have Usher.

TOMORROW: Meet the family caring for puppies for charity

CAPTION(S):

MR250407BOOK1; A GOOD STORY... Lisza Hoyer and grandson Charlie enjoy reading time with the help of a special book for the visually impaired, and (above) a close-up of one of the books with its Braille sheet. Pictures by Mark Radford MR250407BOOK2
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Apr 30, 2007
Words:614
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