Sparkly 6-year-old Scarlette Matene is busting with questions - it's hard to get one in myself.

Scarlette and her mum Anna Matene are sharing her story so far, hoping to raise awareness for Blind Week.

Scarlette says she doesn't know what people mean when they ask her if she can see shapes. Anna says Scarlette has a little pocket of vision in her lower left eye and this possibly gives her the ability to see some darkness compared to light. Scarlette says her hands are for seeing.

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One of three children, Scarlette's favourite game is hide and seek at home, Anna saying Scarlette is the seeker, using her acute sense of hearing and smell.

"She is on point, every time. We go out of the room and Krimzyn, 10, or Odin, 4, stands next to her making a big noise and within a few minutes she finds us."

Scarlette's optic nerve failed to develop while she was in the uterus and this means a life without sight. Anna says Blind and Low Vision New Zealand (formerly the Blind Foundation) has helped Scarlette develop the skills she needs to perform ordinary tasks for day-to-day living.

Anna says there needs to be more money for Blind and Low Vision NZ independent living specialists such as Mark Gear, who make such a huge difference to Scarlette's quality of life.

"Mark showed Scarlette how to cook macaroni. He helps me, and I help Scarlette." says Anna.

Krimsyn and Odin both run to Scarlette if she ever needs help, and Anna says it got to the point where she had to ask them to let Scarlette be independent.

Keen on earning pocket money, Scarlette's favourite jobs at home are to feed the chickens. She also gets the eggs, puts cutlery in the dishwasher and turns it on and takes the recycling downstairs.

At Mountview School she has two teacher aides, known as resource teacher vision or RTV, with one RTV always present. Anna says it's a huge responsibility being RTV to Scarlette as a good knowledge of Braille is required. Scarlette has learned Braille for two and a half years and has a reading age of eight.


Anna says Scarlette has had lots of help from BLENNZ (Blind and Low Vision Education Network NZ), funded through the Ministry of Education.

As for Scarlette's friends, she says they often ask if she wishes she wasn't blind.

"I say 'yes'. Then people wouldn't take my cane. [And] people wouldn't make fun of it [her cane]."

The Blind Week street collection is on tomorrow and Saturday. Anna says she hopes sharing her family's story about Scarlette will inspire others and give an understanding of the practical and emotional support provided by Blind and Low Vision New Zealand.

* Blind & Low Vision NZ collectors will be outside Paper Plus, Countdown, Pak'nSave, and Mitre10 Mega.