Guide Dogs and the Beano team up to create comic for visually impaired children

Guide Dogs and the Beano team up to create comic for visually impaired children
Alex McQueen, left, and brother Ross (Fabio De Paola/PA Media Assignments)

A comic strip featuring children with visual impairments has been produced by the Beano and Guide Dogs to raise awareness of those experiencing sight loss.

The comic called Beano Presents – A Buddy for Life sees Erbert, one of the Beano’s Bash Street Kids, discuss his recent sight loss diagnosis with friends, and make a visit to the Guide Dogs National Centre.

Real young people with visual impairments have also been ‘Beanofied’ to feature in the special edition, which is also available in audio form for the first time.

Seven-year-old Alex McQueen and his buddy dog, golden retriever Chance, who he has had for two years, is among those starring in the comic – while his nine-year-old brother Ross has lent his voice to the production.

Boy with bookAlex McQueen and his buddy dog Chance have been ‘Beanofied’ (Fabio De Paola/PA Media Assignments)

Buddy dogs are dogs that have been given a career change because they did not suit being a guide dog, and are typically partnered with a child with sight loss.

Alex’s mother Lindsey McQueen, who lives with her family in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, told the PA news agency that because Alex has a developmental delay with his speech, it can be hard for him to “verbalise” his feelings about being in the comic.

“For him, he feels like it is all really good fun and ‘there’s me and Chance and we’re in this cartoon and it’s great’,” the 46-year-old solicitor added.

“As Alex has speech challenges, his brother Ross did the voice for Alex, which is lovely.”

Family sitting together in a lineLindsey McQueen with Ross, left, and Alex (Lindsey McQueen/PA)

Alex contracted meningitis at three weeks old, which led to him being diagnosed with bilateral optic atrophy at the age of four, meaning his optic nerve has been damaged.

Mrs McQueen added: “He has a reduced sharpness in vision, especially central vision and he struggles to see certain colours, so red and green for example are quite greyed out for him.

“He also has no peripheral vision in his right eye, he doesn’t have very good distance vision and his close vision is quite intermittent and as he also has speech challenges, we don’t always know how well he can see.

“Alex is also full of energy and can run around at literally 100 miles an hour but because he cannot process his surroundings quickly, he will crash into stuff.”

Mrs McQueen said Guide Dogs has been “wonderful”, and has not just helped Alex by pairing him with Chance, but has also set him up with an iPad to help him complete his studies at school, among other things.

Initially anxious around dogs, Alex now regularly seeks out Chance for “cuddles”.

Boy hugging dogAlex and Ross hugging Chance (Lindsey McQueen/PA)

“(Chance) has got the most beautiful temperament in the world, he is just so lovely,” Mrs McQueen said.

“Alex pulls him and cuddles him and just wants to treat him like a toy and he just rolls with it.

“To see your child go from this traumatic child who was hysterical at seeing dogs to how he is now with Chance and other animals is just lovely.”

She said it is “hugely important” to see characters from different walks of life portrayed in popular culture.

“When you see somebody in the media or who appears on your phone or iPad or TV that is like you and they’ve achieved or they’re out there, it’s inspiring and it shows you can get on in life and have opportunities – it’s brilliant,” Mrs McQueen said.

Boy with dogAlex has had Chance for two years (Fabio De Paola/PA Media Assignments)

“I think it’s not just important for Alex, but for other children to understand,” she said.

“He goes to a mainstream primary school at the moment and is in a lovely class, but it raises awareness for the other children as well to learn about the difficulties that other children could have and how they can help.”

She said she hopes the comic raises awareness of the “wonderful” work Guide Dogs does, as well as the buddy dog scheme.

Boys sitting together with dogThe comic hopes to raise awareness for young people living with a visual impairment (Fabio De Paola/PA Media Assignments)

Craig Graham, editorial director at Beano Studios, said: “At Beano, it’s important to us to reflect kids’ experiences and help them navigate life with the fun and mischief that all kids should get to enjoy.

“Beano Presents – A Buddy for Life has given us the opportunity to talk at length about sight loss, which has been a particularly special project for me as someone who has a visual impairment.”

Alex Pepper, head of accessibility at Guide Dogs, added: “Our partnership with Beano will help children learn more about visual impairments and the various services Guide Dogs offers in a fun yet educational way.

“With Erbert opening up about his visual impairment to the Bash Street Kids for the very first time, we hope to encourage people to feel more comfortable sharing their sight loss experience.

The comic is available digitally and in print from May 1.

To listen to the special Guide Dogs x Beano comic strip and find out more about those featured in it, visit:

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