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The Checkered Eye Project

People wearing this symbol have partial blindness aka low vision.




When I talk about raising kids as a person with low vision and what concerns or strategies I had, there are a few things that jump to mind.  One was the importance of reading and that I wouldn't be able to model that.  I'm so relieved that my kids turned out to be readers.  I was not a good example of someone who enjoyed reading or who sought information in books so I worried that they wouldn't pick it up. Fortunately Ray is an avid reader and he read bedtime stories to them.  He also read them some novels as they got older. I think my part in encouraging reading was that, as soon as they could, I would have the kids read things for me.  I imagine that could have also been a bit of a confidence booster for them. Being a "helper" for an adult can be an ego boost for little ones.

We live in a beach town so a strategy I used when going to the beach was to have them wear large brightly colored hats.  I was doing a bit of sewing at the time so I made them myself.  It was a good thing I could do that because I wanted them really big!  They were too young to be self-conscious about them, but eventually the spectacular hats had to go.  After that, if we were on the beach, I just went everywhere with them.  If I didn't feel like swimming, it was sand sculpture and water erosion experiments till I got my energy back!  

Another practice we had was that if we were in a park and they wanted to play a distance from me they had to sing, and loud!  The alphabet was the usual song of choice and again, they only did it until they were old enough to feel it was just too uncool!  We had to develop some trust so that they could play further than arm's length from me. 


Last month I was delighted to receive a brief video greeting from Rick Mercer.  It was a 24 second spot in which the comedian gave the basic information the CEP is trying to pass along and encouraged visiting the website for more information.  It had taken a bit of begging and pleading so as soon as I got a yes from them I was over the moon. 

I immediately put it up on Youtube and shared it on my Facebook page.  Ray posted it on the Champions for the Checkered Eye Facebook page, because I couldn't figure out how to do that! 

Well, Rick Mercer got "shared" a lot more than any other checkered eye video's I post.  I suspect this is because he is a famous person, someone people recognize.  Familiarity seems to catch people's attention, so I'm now making more efforts to see if I can engage any "famous people" to help tell the whole wide world what the checkered eye means. 

If you know anyone famous, can you send them my way?!?

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On a recent stay in Toronto, I was unattended by my usual sighted guide and favorite human, my hubby Ray.  I used my ID cane quite a lot as it’s the best thing for traffic safety, and I was walking around very busy parts of the city.  I also kept it in hand when I entered malls, stores, and other buildings.  I found that when I had the cane out, I didn’t need to explain, or should I say convince people that I can’t see well. 

I found that in some cases people went overboard with how much they wanted to help.  Lovely.

However, more than once, when I didn’t have my cane out and mentioned that I have impaired vision, it was like the person didn’t believe me.  There were also the situations in which I did have my cane in hand, and met a person behind a counter that obscured their view of the cane.  I was regularly getting demonstrations of the need for a recognized symbol close to my face!

After the wonderful accommodation received from those who apparently thought I'm totally blind, it felt strange to return to having to explain and convince people that I actually do need their help.


I love the idea of keeping any interested parties informed, through this blog, about current CEP goings on.  I also quite like the idea that I can post the occasional bit of CEP history here.  The possibility of this being an interactive forum has excited me as well.  So I'm sure you can imagine my delight each time a comment has come in.  At first I got them one at a time, which was great.  There was no need to dedicate a long stretch of time to going through, approving or editing them, and of course composing responses to those for which one was required.

Then one day I noticed a comment had come in.  But wait, ten came in at the same time!  Wow!  I was thrilled.  I'd handed out some pamphlets recently, so I thought maybe a bunch of those people read the blog and commented!  So cool!

Can you see what's coming?  When I went in to read the comments I quickly realized that I'd been bombed by some nasty spammer! 

Thank goodness for my trusty tech support guy, Phil (of Digital Expression).  He did some of his technical magic, and I haven't received any more of those disappointing clusters of gobbledygook and sales pitches!

I am more than willing by the way to spend the time it takes to address any comments that do come in, so comment away!

I just posted a new video here and on Youtube.  It's a video promo by Rick Mercer.  Check it out.  More about that next blog post.

Comments: 2 Comments


Various versions/Stage door

A while before Christmas, I heard from a fellow in Victoria, BC. He had noticed that there are several pins now available that are intended to communicate low vision. He was collecting samples of them to send to CNIB and ask if they plan to get behind one and help with public awareness. I sent him some checkered eyes of course.

He wrote to the CEO John Rafferty, and proposed a plan, one that would cost CNIB nothing, to explore wearable symbol possibilities; whether there was a need for or any interest in such a thing. Weeks later, he called again to let me know his letter and idea seem to have been ignored by Mr. Rafferty.

Meanwhile, my associate in Pittsburgh, Stephanae McCoy, discovered another low vision pin. This one says "I have low vision" and depicts 3 adorable little mice wearing dark glasses.

Some organizations of and for blind people have declined to support awareness of the checkered eye, stating that there’s no need for it.  You want a symbol? Here's your white cane. That's the international symbol for blindness. That's what we support. Case closed.

So why are they popping up all over the place?


On a lighter note, I saw Blue Rodeo recently. Well, I couldn't really "see" them. I didn't have the greatest seats but I did have my binoculars. They were fantastic. It was a terrific performance, and I was amazed at how anyone could get the sound so clear in a stadium.

Before attending a theatre show a number of years ago, I called to see if they had accommodation for those of us who can't see well. Their answer was no. While writing this blog post, I decided to call around and discovered that some places do have arrangements for people with impaired vision. The policies vary from place to place, so it's worth calling ahead.

So, not having made this discovery until after going to see Blue Rodeo, I didn't have the greatest seats for their show.

But, about a week before, I impulsively e-mailed their "people" to see if I could send them checkered eye booster shirts and see if any of them would wear one on stage. I actually got a hold of someone! She was delightful and said that although they couldn't wear it on stage, since they wear stage clothes, they'd accept a shirt. I wanted to wise crack about how I could add feathers or sequins, but didn't. I did however, ask if I could hand deliver it as I'd be at their show in London. She said I could mail one shirt to her office. K, fine, good.

But then we continued our chat and she said the subject matter was close to her heart. It turns out that Blue Rodeo’s bass player, Bazil, has a brother who has low vision. Ultimately she asked if I'd like to bring the shirts, one for each band member, to the stage door at 6:30. I said yes!

I was very excited when I arrived at the RBC Centre and approached the first person I encountered who looked like staff. “Can you tell me where the stage door is” I blurted. The older gentleman looked at me with suspicion. I stood a bit straighter and showed him my package of t-shirts, as if this would give me some credibility. “I was told to meet Bazil at the stage door”. I guess that was all he needed because he told me to continue along this wall to a door marked “media and security”.

Ray walked with me down the side of the building. I think I might have been skipping – it was cold! We found the door and walked in. There didn’t seem to be any media people there but there was a very serious looking uniformed man seated at a desk behind a window in the wall. I told him I was supposed to meet Bazil at 6:30. He didn’t seem to know who this Bazil was because he made me repeat myself then got out his walkie talkie. Before I had a chance to get worried, a door opened and there was Bazil. He shook my hand and invited us in. The serious guy behind the glass protested. I think maybe a pass was flashed but I don’t know. We were allowed in is what I know.

Bazil and Ray and I had quite a nice little chin wag. He was already aware of the checkered eye, something I love to hear. Having grown up with a sibling who has low vision, Bazil can relate to some of the stuff Ray experiences living with me. They both had a little chuckle about watching TV from behind someone sitting within arm’s length of the box. Yup, I was the remote control for my Mom back in the 70s. He was very sweet and posed for a photo with me. Ray snapped only one, so me with my eyes closed will have to do. I’m glad the checkered eye poster is prominent and Bazil looks great.

I’m not sure how much impact this will have on the public awareness effort, but a few more people know about the checkered eye and I think it’s pretty cool that each member of one of the finer Canadian bands has a checkered eye t-shirt.

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