AFB and NAPVI Announce Breakthrough Social Network for Parents of Visually Impaired Children

FamilyFriends Adds New Dimension to FamilyConnect Web Portal; Members Can Post and Share Profiles, News, Links

NEW YORK, March 10, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and the National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI) today announced the launch of an innovative social network for parents and caregivers of visually impaired children. FamilyFriends is the latest extension of AFB's web community, FamilyConnect. For the last three years, visitors to www.familyconnect.org have connected with other families through message boards and have explored resources related to raising children with visual impairments.

Now, FamilyFriends provides registered FamilyConnect users with new networking features and options to further customize and personalize their online experience. Users can create and post profiles that can be found by other parents based on such shared criteria as geographic location, a child's eye condition or a child's age.

"With only 94,000 visually impaired school-aged children in the U.S., over half of whom have additional disabilities, it's easy for families facing vision loss to feel alone," said Susan LaVenture, Executive Director of NAPVI. "FamilyConnect and its new social networking component, FamilyFriends, gives busy parents, grandparents and other caretakers an easy way to connect with each other and find support 24 hours a day."

"One of the most common questions I hear from families is 'how do I find other parents with a child who is coping with this diagnosis?'" said Scott Truax, FamilyConnect Program Manager. "The feeling of isolation can be very strong and there is a real need to talk with other parents about the unique aspects of raising a child with special needs.  FamilyFriends now provides a quick way to fill those needs."

The FamilyFriends social networking features allow people experiencing vision loss in their families to come together in ways that are affirming and helpful. Users can also log into FamilyFriends for the same reason people go to other social networking sites — it gives people a real sense of community and connection. Registered members can send friendship requests, update their pages with news and photos, share links they like and follow their friends via e-mail alerts.

FamilyFriends adds a new dimension to FamilyConnect, the original web portal designed by experts at AFB and NAPVI for parents and caregivers of children with visual impairments. FamilyConnect gives parents access to message boards where they can talk to other parents, compelling videos featuring real-life families, parenting articles, a mom-authored blog, a glossary of more than 30 eye conditions and links to local resources. The site also features sections dedicated to multiple disabilities, technology, education and every age group from infants to teens.

FamilyConnect also serves Spanish-speaking families. Visitors to the FamilyConnect homepage can now choose the "Read this article in English" link or the "Leer este articulo en espanol" link and access more than 300 articles in Spanish. Spanish-speaking families can access the site's Spanish language content by logging in directly to www.familyconnect.org/Spanish. In addition, screen reader users can hear text pronounced correctly in both languages.

"For parents who are raising children with visual impairments, there is tremendous value in discovering that there is no challenge or experience related to vision loss that is unique to them," said Carl R. Augusto, AFB President and CEO. "With FamilyFriends and the addition of Spanish language content, this community is not only growing closer, it's becoming richer, more diverse and better informed."

FamilyFriends was developed under a grant from the Lavelle Fund for the Blind, Inc., which was a lead sponsor for the FamilyConnect web site.  The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation was also a lead sponsor for FamilyConnect and, additionally, funded development of the Spanish-language version of the site.

About AFB

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that expands possibilities for people with vision loss. AFB's priorities include broadening access to technology; elevating the quality of information and tools for the professionals who serve people with vision loss; and promoting independent and healthy living for people with vision loss by providing them and their families with relevant and timely resources. Headquartered in New York, AFB is proud to house the Helen Keller Archives and honor the more than forty years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB.

About NAPVI

The National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI) is an international membership organization serving families in the U.S. and in 55 countries. NAPVI helps parents to find information and resources for their children who are blind or visually impaired, including those with additional disabilities. NAPVI provides leadership, support, and education to assist parents in helping children reach their potential.

SOURCE American Foundation for the Blind



RELATED LINKS
http://www.afb.org
http://www.familyconnect.org

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