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The Checkered Eye Project

People wearing this symbol have partial blindness aka low vision.

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Postponement Unrelated to Coronavirus

Each year during Canada’s White Cane Week the Checkered Eye Project does a little extra awareness boost. Our main focus is of course ensuring that as many people as possible understand that if they see someone wearing the checkered eye symbol, it means that person is communicating the fact that they are on the blindness spectrum. We also include information about the different kinds of white canes used by people on the blindness spectrum, and that’s not just because the occasion is called “White Cane Week”, it’s part of our ongoing awareness effort.

 

 

Well this year is 20 20. Many people are using references to this number as if it applies to vision.: Let’s focus, it’s 20 20, 20 20 a year of vision, watch out it’s 20 20…

You can likely imagine that I saw this coming for a few years. I figured I should be doing something big in the year 2020 and started working on some promo items last year. I wasn’t sure how I’d use them so they were designed in a way that they’d be useful on an ongoing basis.

 

I worked with my trusty graphics guy and came up with some posters that I think are really cool. 

I was very excited to show people the accessible versions of the posters and some inexpensive gadgets that businesses could use to make existing information accessible.  

I also enlisted a few friends to help me host an awareness event, possibly a series of them, and decided to call it a “Drop In”. I came up with some activities people can try doing without sight or with impaired sight, arranged a room for the event, and was ready to have our last meeting to finalize room set up, when something very sad happened.

 

My brother Steve passed away suddenly.

 

I cancelled the event and went to spend some time with my family.

 

The drop in had been scheduled to take place on the last day of white cane week which is the first week of February. This can be a terrible time to plan events where I live, in an area referred to as the snow belt. A silver lining is glimmering slightly as a postponement could mean better likelihood of people being interested in coming out to an event.

 

Steve is actually prominently featured on one of the promotional posters I’d created for the 2020 drop in. It’s a poster that states “People on the blindness spectrum achieve. Accessibility helps make things happen.” The poster was supposed to have a photo of a few individuals and either their logo or a depiction of them doing something cool. I’d requested these images from a few people on the spectrum who are achieving impressive stuff, one of whom was Steve. I had a photo of one of his stunning landscape paintings and a great one of him taking pictures in his studio set up. He’s definitely one of the people I know who demonstrated the point that, if all you know about a person is that they have a disability, you don’t know what they can or can’t do.

However, the only images that were of adequate resolution to enlarge were the ones I had of Steve.

The “blind people achieve” poster had been the final one worked on and I was now going to have to ask for replacement photos in a rush. I decided not to do that and by this time, I was cutting it close, so, in order to have the poster produced on time, I went ahead with just Steve’s images and some open space. I planned to print the other images separately and add those people later, possibly different ones each time I do the event.

So, due to the sad event in late January, and the result of a seemingly insignificant organizational shortcoming, the first drop in will be scheduled during better travelling weather, and my brother Steve will forever be featured on a poster involved in contributing to the greater good of people on the blindness spectrum. I’m thinking of calling the event The Steve Kennedy Memorial Checkered Eye Drop In. Or maybe I’ll save that title for when I do the one with the live music called The Checkered Eye Ball! He was a music fan too. We’ll see!

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What can sighted people do?

In a brain storming session for some awareness posters related to the checkered eye, it was suggested that we address the question: okay, now I know what it means, what do I do?

My immediate reaction was “nothing”. Wearing a checkered eye or carrying an I.D. cane is not supposed to elicit action from onlookers. It is to add the little bit of information “I can’t see well”. The cane is mostly to communicate this to drivers and the wearable checkered eye is to inform people I’m engaging with face to face.

The whole idea that a disability necessarily indicates “help” is needed drives me nuts. This is not to say that help is never needed, but the idea that having a disability means that help is always needed rubs me the wrong way.

I had to agree however, that people do want to know “how does this effect me”. So I have begun a list of bullet points under the heading “What can sighted people do”.

- Help spread awareness of the symbol.

- Businesses train staff to “check for the checkered eye”

- If it seems the person needs assistance, ask first.

- In restaurants, offer accessible menus such as large print, braille, electronic.

- Common courtesy is often all that is needed. Sensitivity to special needs is always appreciated.

Can you suggest other points?

Comment here or e-mail info@checkeredeye.com.

 

 

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Crazy Airplane Stunt

I'm going to pull a 60 ton plane across the tarmac by myself!

I'm getting a bit cranky about how slow this awareness effort is going so I've decided to ramp things up a bit.  Here's a press release I've been sending out in hopes of catching some attention:

Partially sighted Grandmother to single handedly pull 60 ton plane for Sight.

Orbis, with their flying eye hospital has an annual fund raiser involving teams pulling a giant cargo plane. The Checkered Eye Project educates about the blindness spectrum and the wearable symbol for partial blindness, the checkered eye. Both need public awareness so checkered eye creator Libby Thaw plans to single handedly pull the 60-ton jet to raise funds and understanding.

Like moving this big plane, informing the entire world about what the checkered eye symbol means is an enormous task. I’ve been working at it for over 18 years and I’m not getting any younger. Since It’s still not widely recognized I’m trying this crazy stunt to boost awareness.

On Sunday June 9th, at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, groups of up to 20 people will gather to see if they can pull a 60 ton jet 20 feet for fund raising team building and fun. Libby will be a team of one.

Here's a link to my fundraising page: https://orbiscan.akaraisin.com/pledge/Team/Home.aspx…

So that press release has resulted in a few local outlets interviewing me so far.  I hope some more will show up at the event. 

Regardless of professional camera crews, I will have some photos and videos taken on the big day and share that later.  

I've already got some pics and videos of me "in training".

Holly and Frank at Fitness corner graciously allowwed me to use their facility and were a lot of fun at the shoot.

At the plane pull I plan to wear a very flamboyant outfit and mingle around at least informing the people there about the checkered eye. 

I'm thrilled to say that I've received what I think is a substantial amount of donations from the bit of press and social media.  It's quite heart warming.  I've also had an increase in traffic on the Checkered Eye Project website recently so I think this little awareness booster has been a success before I even go the the airport!

I'm looking forward to wearing my checkered outfit, complete with checkered high heels and outrageous hat, and talking to lots of people!   

A very moving day!

I did it!  I moved the plane!

I’m looking at it much like a metaphor for the Checkered Eye Project. I set out to do it on my own, and with the help of some generous individuals, things got rolling!

My turn to pull the plane was the last on the schedule so I had lots of time to mingle and enlist assistants. This was the most moving part of the day because every single person I asked to help said yes. I’d tell them about the checkered eye and that I was doing this to improve awareness. They said yes to both my request to help spread the word and to help me move the plane on the off chance that I couldn’t do it on my own.

I enlisted such great help from the crowd that once the blocks were off the wheels, that plane was moving fast! It was over in seconds! Then there were hugs and high fives and the announcer even let me on the mic to have a bit of a say about the white cane and the checkered eye.

All in all, it was a wonderful day for me and the Checkered Eye Project. Even though I didn’t catch the eye of any journalists, I had a great time meeting new people, informing them about the checkered eye, and getting to wear some custom couture!!

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