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The Checkered Eye Project

People wearing this symbol have partial blindness aka low vision.



Not a Beacon

Not a beacon

 Twice in the whole history of the CEP, I have received a request for a T-shirt bearing a large checkered eye.  I have been hesitant to provide this as it seems to be intended for a use that the checkered eye is not suited to: safety.

In the first instance it was requested by a lady whose daughter has low vision and was a horseback riding student.  The mother assured me that she would make sure the riding school was informed about the meaning of the checkered eye and that this would simply add to courtesy for her daughter and her instructors, as she was always attended.

The second time it was requested by a lady recently, who wants to wear it at the gym.  Again, she assured me that she’d do her best to make sure people at the gym understand the symbol, and that she wouldn’t be using it for safety.

I want to be very clear that the checkered eye is not meant to attract attention. It is not a beacon as is the white cane.  The checkered eye is meant to add that little bit of information (I can’t see well) in situations where the user is already engaged face to face with another person.   Got it?  K.

So here’s the humor that came out of this request: me, low vision lady, attempting to make a large checkered eye to put on a t-shirt.

First I thought I’d make an iron on.  You can get paper that you can print on with a regular computer printer, and then iron the image onto fabric.  I made the rookie mistake of ironing on the standard checkered eye.  Anything you iron on comes out as the reverse image, which is no good if it contains text.  Since I don’t know how to make reverse images with my computer, I moved on.

(This is a photo of a t-shirt bearing a backwards checkered eye.)

My second idea was “hey, a stencil! All you have to do is dab or spray paint!”  Are you thinking ahead faster than I did?  Hmmm, cutting out the stencil, that’s something that may require precise vision.  K, so I asked a friend (thanks Carina) who is artistic and fully sighted.  She took a great stab at it, but without making the thing huge, the stencil was too flimsy not to tear during the cutting process. 

All the while I was involved in attempting the D.I.Y. production, I was seeking a business that would rescue me and do just one or 2 t-shirts.  I’ve had batches of booster shirts made in the past and the unit price would come out being reasonable, but for such a rarely requested item it didn’t make sense to buy a quantity.  The novelty touristy kind of t-shirt makers were going to charge me about $50 per shirt because I wanted the image on the front and the back.  No deal! 

I told my customer that I was having trouble, and sent her some checkered eye buttons in the meantime.  Then, weeks after the initial request, Carina messaged me to say our local sports store makes t-shirts, and they’d do this type of request for about $20 a piece.  Mine turned out to be well under $20 each – score! That’s right; Scoreboard Sports in Port Elgin can make you a custom t-shirt for a reasonable price, even if you only want one.  Thanks Brad!

 (This is a photo of a black t-shirt with a pocket sized white checkered eye on one side of the front,  and a white t-shirt with a large black checkered eye centered on the back.)

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I recently read and shared on Facebook an article called "10 things not to say to a person in a wheelchair".  It’s great to have a venue for informing people about things that they may say which can cause offence.

Here’s the thing: in the comments people posted after the article, some added other insensitive remarks.  Fine.  However, I noticed one that implied that we should assume anyone wearing glasses is not "blind".

I’ve met many people, and I happen to be one myself, who has blindness of some degree AND uses glasses.  So while the glasses sharpen up the edges in my periphery, they cannot fill in the big blank spot in the center of my visual field, so even with them on I am legally blind.

  (That's a photo of me shuffling cards, wearing glasses, in 1982.)

The point I’m making is that we all make assumptions.  In the "10 things…" article it’s not necessarily the content of the statement but rather the ignorance and certainly insensitivity behind it.

Everybody, including people with disabilities, makes assumptions.  Problems arise when we are not open to learning our assumption was wrong.

The whole point of the checkered eye is to add a bit of information in face to face situations that may reduce the difficulties caused by the assumption that "this person is fully sighted".

My pet peeve awkward insensitive remark comes from someone who actually knows me, witnesses me do something clumsy due to my eyesight and says "what are you, blind or something?"  I suspect it's an attempt to defuse awkwardness with humour, and I must admit that humour is my default so I might have done the same thing.  Also, I realisze that my experiences and my feelings are my own responsibility, so, while I still do bug myself over that one a bit, I'm much better at letting it go.

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Before I tell you  a personal story related to living with a visual impairment, I have some project news. Thanks to our Swiss associate Rosalind Zaugg, the Checkered Eye Project (CEP) is taking another step toward awareness in Switzerland.  In 13 years the CEP has been unable to enlist assistance from Canadian organizations that provide services to people who are blind or have low vision.  However, thanks to Rosalind's efforts over the last few months,

the UCBA, the biggest such organization in Switzerland, wrote and published an article about the CEP in one of their newsletters.  As a result of the article they received some interest in the checkered eye from clientele and so, at an upcoming  open house in August, they will be displaying  checkered eyes and CEP literature, both translated for them into French. 

Although this doesn't mean that the UCBA is officially on board, I remain optimistic.


This month my hubby Ray and I have been working on a renovation to our basement.  We did some of the work but most of it we hired out.  Of course all the design decisions are ours.  Here’s how that’s relevant to the Checkered Eye Project blog; we’re both color blind. 

Ray is an average sighted person, wears glasses for reading and driving, but he is quite color blind.  I commented to him one day that I thought the brown shirt he was wearing was a good shade for him.  He looked a bit disappointed and told me he thought it was red – significant color blindness!

I was unaware that I was color blind until being thoroughly tested when the doctors were trying to diagnose my condition.  Even since being informed that I am color blind I haven’t found it to effect much.  I match my clothes just fine, paint the odd piece of art, and do well at fabric selections for sewing projects.  So I felt quite confident in the color selection I made for the bank of cabinets we bought for the wet bar in the basement.

Wrong!  Boy was I wrong! I was planning a color scheme that is inspired by a pair of vases I have

and the color I wanted for the cabinets was red, fire engine red. 

The color I got was not that!  I posted a photo of them and asked my Facebook friends what they’d call that color.  I got answers like burgundy, eggplant, and merlot. 

I’ve never used any of the color detecting gadgets that are available for people who can’t see for themselves, so I’m not sure if they differentiate between colors like red and burgundy.  Regardless, since I do okay, as far as I know, with day to day color picks, I don’t’ think I’ll go out and get one of those just yet. I will however seek consultation from someone who has acute color vision the next time I'm making choices about things that are expensive or large permanent fixtures in the house!

My take away from this experience is that it's important to understand my own limitations. That way I have the opportunity to learn about tools and methods with which to manage them, and decide which ones work for me.


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