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Mother of children with albinism wants to see an end to "evil albino" stereotype

Article By: Sue Learner, News Editor

A mother of children with albinism wants to see an end to the "evil albino" stereotype.

Joanne Bennett, who has two young daughters with albinism, wants to raise more awareness of the condition.

People with albinism have little or no pigment in their eyes, skin or hair and a significant visual impairment which cannot be corrected by spectacles or contact lenses.

There are many misconceptions and stereotypes associated with albinism.

There is an ‘evil albino’ stereotype which is not helped by films such as ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and ‘The Matrix Reloaded’ featuring evil albino gunmen. The National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation in America found that between 1960 and 2006, there were 68 films featuring an ‘evil albino’.

Speaking during Albinism Awareness Week (9-15 July), Mrs Bennett, a trustee of the Albinism Fellowship said: “My husband Andrew and I joined the Albinism Fellowship about three years ago after our eldest daughter was diagnosed with albinism a few months after her birth. The diagnosis came as quite a surprise, and it was a considerable relief to find there was a group of friendly, warm and knowledge people out there who had dealt with the same issues and could provide a practical support network.”

Her one-year-old Rebecca currently attends the Secret Garden Day Nursery in West Bridgford, Nottingham, following in the footsteps of her five-year-old sister, Jessica.

“The nursery has been fantastic in ensuring the staff are all aware of the girls' condition and how to best meet their needs.

For example, high factor suncream is essential even on dull days as are their sun hats.

Blinds are fitted throughout the nursery to help manage the girls’ photosensitivity.

The staff also ensure the girls are able to sit very close to anyone reading a story as they are unable to see if anything is at a distance.

These seems like minor changes, but leaving your child in someone else's care is hard, more so if they have special needs. My husband and I had to have total confidence in the nursery being able to meet these needs for our little girls. Our visually impaired teacher has also been a huge support to both us and the nursery staff," said Mrs Bennett.

Mark Sanderson, chair of the Albinism Fellowship, said “Albinism Fellowship wants everyone in society to talk about people with albinism, defining people by who they are and not by their condition, just as we talk about people with cerebral palsy or person with dyslexia.”

“For too long, albinism has been incorrectly portrayed by film makers who've often concentrated on the distinctive appearance, creating many and widespread misunderstandings among the general public.

We’re concerned that the new children’s film The Pirates! In an adventure with Scientists, which features a character called ‘Albino Pirate’, adds to that misunderstanding.”

There are around 3,000 people with the condition in the UK.

Image: Rebecca and Jessica


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