On Sunday, May 6th, 2018,I had a ball at the first ever Checkered Eye Ball! Five different bands performed and kept everyone grooving. People were interested in the blindness simulations. The Old Nick, a downtown Toronto bar where we held the event, had a busier than usual Sunday, and the Checkered Eye Project told some more folks that people wearing the checkered eye symbol are on the blindness spectrum.
We gave away and sold some items that are not only very cool, they help inform others about what the symbol means. My favorites of these items are the "smashed checkers" t-shirts and the "Blindness is a Spectrum" t-shirts. I also like the coasters very much.
We had 2 types of blindness simulations: low tech and high tech. The low tech ones were glasses with the lenses obscured in various ways to depict different eye conditions. I've noticed however, that depicting a central blind spot with glasses is not likely to give an acurate impression to peopl with average sight, as they will naturally "look around" the spot we put on the lenses. So, I had a computer simulation devised, using eye tracking hardware. This is way more "freaky" according to the average sighted people who tried it, and found that the blind spot followed there gaze whereever they placed it.
I personally enjoyed chatting with all the generous people who contributed to the days success, and of course putting on an over the top stage outfit and singing some jazzy little numbers!
There will be more Checkered Eye Balls so stay tuned for one near you!
Today for the first time ever I walked uptown and back carrying my white ID cane the whole time. I’ve had one for many years and used it lots when I’m travelling on my own but never here in my home town. I still don’t need it to feel my way around but since my sight has deteriorated a bit recently and I’ve been having a bit more trouble determining whether or not there is a car coming, I decided it’s safer to use it than not. The gorgeous sunshine made the idea of a walk very appealing but it also makes it difficult for me to see.
A few months ago I scrapped the quick and convenient transport of my bicycle, unless of course I’m taking a particularly safe route and the lighting is just right, and of course it’s not rush minute here in teeny weeny Port Elgin. So today when I had a few errands to run and my driver was not available, I took out my little traffic safety beacon and headed out on foot.
Actually, I second guessed my decision several times before I left the house. It all happened within the few minutes it took to put on my coat and shoes; maybe I’ll leave it in my purse till I’m walking back with the sun in my eyes…but no, there’s that trouble spot right up the block…well I can just get it out then…but sometimes a situation arises unexpectedly when I wish I had it in my hand… okay, I’m getting it out now and keeping it out!
So that’s what I did. It was fine. Nobody pointed and laughed. Nobody called me a faker when I looked at my watch. Oh yeah but there was that girl in the bank who looked at my cane and asked if I was going to wack people. I think she was intellectually challenged so I said no and then asked her if she knew what the cane meant. She said no so I told her it means I can’t see well, pointed to my checkered eye and told her it means the same thing. She said “you should have a dog” and walked away! I irritated myself for a second and then just chuckled. What can you do!?.
All in all, it was a good experience. I didn’t feel self-conscious and I did feel safer. It was the right thing to do today.
Last week I got a call from an inspiring lady. Leanne called to order some checkered eyes for a friend. He has low vision and doesn’t use a cane for mobility so, like me, he is often mistaken as fully sighted. She said her friend looks a bit like a rough character even though he is a real sweetheart. She said she’s pretty sure people assume he’s drunk or on something if he stumbles in public. She was heartbroken that he had fallen recently and not a single person offered him a hand. Leanne mentioned that her friend doesn’t have a lot of money so I offered to send his order at no charge. Leanne wouldn’t hear of it, she insisted on paying; she wants to help with our awareness effort.
She was also more than a bit upset with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). She said she had spoken to three different people there and no one would tell her anything about how to find checkered eyes. I have called many of their offices to give them the checkered eye Project’s phone number and web address, and also asked if they could make this information available to all front line contact people. I think this makes sense since people naturally assume the checkered eye is a CNIB project. However, I was told that they wouldn’t make this information available to their info line staff as it isn’t one of their products or services.
Fortunately for Leanne’s friend she persisted and found the checkered eye website. She also has offered to help him inform people in his community about the checkered eye. I always send pamphlets and info cards with all mail orders to help checkered eye users do just that. The symbol works best when people are already aware of it and its meaning so each user can bring information to friends and family and to the businesses they frequent. That way those of us who use it are pioneers and will make the checkered eye more effective for those who follow.
Hats off to Leanne and people like her who take care of their own and do what they can for the greater good.