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The Checkered Eye Project

People wearing this symbol have partial blindness aka low vision.



White Cane Week

Hey it’s White Cane Week!  The first week in February is White Cane Week in Canada.

White cane week was started by the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) in 1946.  It’s a time when various groups make efforts to raise awareness of issues concerning people who have any degree of blindness, and of course the white cane.

The Checkered Eye Project (CEP) also takes this opportunity to do a bit of awareness boosting about the white cane and of course the checkered eye.

Here’s what we’d like you to know:


The wearable checkered eye emblem and the white cane, as symbols, both indicate blindness.  Neither says more than that so if you need to know what kind or what degree of blindness a person has you’ll need to communicate with them.

The checkered eye is for face to face situations and just ads a bit of understanding.

Here is a photo of me wearing a checkered eye.  The version I'm wearing here is one that does not have the usual text saying "low vision".  We hope to be able to offer these once understanding is well established.  That way we'll no longer have to translate them. 


There are three types of white canes: the ID cane, the mobility cane, and the support cane.


The white cane originated as a traffic safety beacon in the early 20th century and is white because this was determined to be the easiest color for drivers to see. 

Below is a photo illustrating the use of an ID cane.  Held diagonally across the body this type is used by people who don’t need it as a feeler or mobility tool, just as a symbol.  This type of white cane is shorter and less sturdy than a mobility cane. 


Mobility canes look much the same and may have various different tips and handles.  The technique, with which blind people use these canes in a side to side sweeping fashion to locate obstacles and landmarks, was developed by Richard Hoover at a US military hospital.  He taught it to blinded veterans of WWII in the 1940s but it was not widely accepted and taught until the 1960s.

Ever wonder why there is red at the bottom of a white cane?  Me too.  I have had discussions with several people who teach orientation and mobility (O and M) to blind people in Canada and learned that the red is intended to increase visibility when the ground is snow covered. 

The following photos illustrate how the all-white cane blends into the snowy background, whereas the red tipped cane in the second photo is easier to detect.


One of the instructors indicated that the black cane originated in Russia where it was intended to create the desired visibility in snow.  

However, other O and M instructors told me that the black cane is a fashion choice intended for formal situations like weddings and graduations. I have come to learn that people do use black mobility canes for just this reason.  I haven’t confirmed the Russian origin story though.

Here’s a photo of a black cane in the snow.


It’s important to note that if a person is using a black cane as a mobility tool, it is likely understood that the person using it has a severe level of blindness.  However it is no longer a symbol for blindness and the user cannot expect it to convey the same safety message as a white cane does, to drivers in moving vehicles.  

The final type of white cane is, I think, the least well understood.  The white support cane is also used as a tool as well as a symbol.  In this case its functional use is to support some of the user’s weight while at the same time it’s intended as a symbol to communicate blindness.

Here’s a photo of a white support cane in use.


Just for fun, since there is already a black cane option for the fashion minded, guess what – I bet you guessed it!  Yup, you can now get any of a rainbow of color options for your mobility cane!  I think if I used a mobility cane I’d have one in every color – I am a bit spoiled!

The below photos are of my collection of canes, one of which I use personally and the others I use in speaking engagements.  Thre are 2 ID canes, a black cane, a support cane, and a mobility cane with a different color on each of its seven segments.  The second photo was taken with a flash and shows their reflective ability.



 Check for the checkered eye and watch for white canes - pass it on!

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Business/Non Profit/Charity

I’m trying not to use foul language here.  As I mentioned a while back I was considering registering the CEP for charity status.  This would allow me to apply for grants and issue receipts for donations with the goal in mind of paying someone who knows how to accomplish the CEP mission – awareness. 

However I changed my mind after a telephone consultation with one of Canada’s leading charity law experts who used lots of phrases like “and what have you” and “so on and so forth” and I pictured as looking like Henry Kissinger.

Mr. Kissinger made it quite clear that there were lots of potential dangers, pitfalls, and onerous procedures involved in operating a charity.  He waited till near the end of the conversation to hit me with the final blow of how much it would cost to engage him or anyone in his company to do the paperwork, and the deposit required exceeded the annual earnings of the CEP on even the best years in its existence.  He did mention that I could do all this without a lawyer.  However, after starting down that path and discovering that even with my superior intelligence, I couldn’t wing it through the documents, and after speaking to two lawyers and an accountant, I was ultimately passed along to someone who “knows that kind of stuff”.

Now it wasn’t immediately after my telephone meeting with Mr. Badnews and his perky assistant that I decided to say (not gonna swear) never mind the charity registration.  You see Mr. Badnews Kissinger had referred me to go online and search “charity tax tools”.  This would lead me to a resource that would explain some different approaches to registering as a charity. 

The page was not all that hard to find and I did manage to read about the three suggested alternatives: partnering with an existing charity, operating as a non-profit, and operating as a business, the latter of which is what the CEP already does.

The first suggestion is actually something the CEP already does as well, we partner with the Port Elgin Rotary Club and Charitable Trust each year when submitting the paperwork that qualifies our public service announcements for free television airtime. This partnering idea brings me back to the thought that it would be such a great idea to just be a part of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind since it seems that we hope to benefit the same group of people.  Alas, they have strenuously and on many occasions declined the partnership idea.

I’d like to note here that there are quite a few individuals within CNIB who see the merits of the checkered eye and make clients aware of it as an option for self-identification, but the CNIB as a whole does not support the CEP.  “As a whole” is not foul language.

So it appears that I’ll continue learning as I go, working with the terrific associates I’ve connected with, and doing what I can for people who, like myself, have low vision.

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Seasonal sensations

Just like the rest of 21st  century human life, the festive season is full of wonders and delights that are pretty much exclusively visual.  And just like the rest of 21st century human life, there is plenty that can be savored without acute eyesight.

(Below is a photo of three small stylized Christmas trees.  They have twisted spines, a star on top, and flat metal strips for branches, curled at the ends.  They are covered with gold glitter.  The tallest has a gold bauble with a red tassle hanging on it, the middle one has a tiny blue flashlight hangin on it, and the smallest has no ornaments added.)


In most years The Checkered Eye Project does little other than fill mail orders in December.  Everybody else is so occupied with the seasonal volume of business that we don’t bother trying to get in anyone’s face about spreading awareness of low vision and the checkered eye.


This affords me the opportunity to do whatever I feel like in this the season of joyous excess.  For the past eight years I’ve been happy to help my Friend Stephanie Reidpath organize and perform at Tunes for Toys, a funds and toy gathering occasion for the local Salvation Army.


Music gives me a great feeling of oneness.  I like to take in the sense that we are all in it together; the musicians are obviously in on the cooperation, but the crowd has lots to do with it too. I’m so glad my eyesight doesn’t hinder that. In fact it probably augments it. Since I can’t see people’s facial expressions I project my own ideas of what their movements and body language are saying.  It’s all up to me whether I enjoy it or not so I pay attention to myself and stay with favorable interpretations.   When there’s just no mistaking that the crowd is having a good time too, you can’t beat it!


My hubby Ray and I are empty nesters now so, since we’re not playing Santa anymore, we thought we’d play some tunes with friends on Christmas Eve.   Before any guests arrived Ray and I played and sang a few on our own.  Ray is an actual guitar player so he did a few numbers while I messed with harmony and kept time with a hand drum.  Then I plunked through a few on my own guitar and just enjoyed that “we are one with the music” sensation.

(Below is a photo of my Mini Martin six string acoustic guitar on a stand, a round hand drum and drum stick on the floor in front o f it.)


I think the best is when I let the intellect drop away and just notice sensations.  And there’s so much to notice this time of year.


Someone’s bound to be baking something somewhere in your life during the holidays, and the scents of certain spices are familiar to me:  cinnamon, cloves, and of course the traditional dinners.  There’s nothing like that first whiff of the turkey.



The tastes go right along with the aromas. I think I’ve had a Werther's hard candy in my mouth 87 percent of my waking time this December.

(Below is a photo of a gold candy dish shaped like a glass ball Christmas tree ornament.)


And the tactile stuff, there’s a lot of that too.  I love getting my hands into the gingerbread dough, the feel of some of the delicate glass ornaments, and recall the prickly trees we used to struggle into the house and prop up to be adorned.  Feeling cozy in the new jammies you might have received, snuggled down into the couch for a movie or two.  Those are some pretty nice sensations I must say.  And another one that happens a lot this time of year is a favorite of mine; hugs.  Even when I’m not in on the hugging I really enjoy witnessing people give each other their mushy seasonal embraces; particularly men.  You know when guys are giving a friend the old grab and pound on the back with a smile on the face and often accompanied by some sort of verbal jab, they really do care.


So whatever you and yours do at this time of year, I hope you are having a lovely time and wish you all the best in the new year, and always.


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