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The Checkered Eye Project

People wearing this symbol have partial blindness aka low vision.



Hoop jumping

After thirteen years of working towards public awareness for the checkered eye and low vision in general, I am looking into registering the Checkered Eye Project as a charity.


I evaluated the idea on two previous occasions. Each time I decided that the money and effort to set up the charity was better spent on the actual education process.  I figured that involving a board of directors would complicate things, and that the result of officially becoming a charity (being able to ask for donations) was not what was needed. In my imagination, since telling people what the  Checkered Eye means serves the greater good, people would likely just pass it on, so money wasn’t what we needed…I guess you’re never too old to be naïve. 

So thirteen years down the road, when someone asked me once again why the CEP wasn’t registered as a charity; and upon further reflection, I slapped myself on the forehead and came to the realization that

I have been running what is in the true sense of the term a “not for profit organization”, without the benefits of being legally signed up as one. 

So now I’m in the process of reading tedious documents and seeking assistance from whomever can help, with composing and submitting them to the appropriate agencies.  Fun...

Watch for news in the next blog about my trip to the California Council of the Blind conferenc in San Diego.

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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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