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The Checkered Eye Project

People wearing this symbol have partial blindness aka low vision.




The phone number for the CEP is listed on the website and any calls that come in come directly to me.  I am delighted to have the time to chat with folks who call for info about ordering the checkered eye pins or who want to request literature.  We often end up chatting at length about our shared experiences as people with a hidden disability.  Most often my callers express the frustration of being mistaken as fully sighted when requesting assistance.  This is an experience I’ve had many times myself, so I’m thrilled to tell you that on my trip to Ottawa this past July, the majority of retail staff I queried was familiar with the meaning of the checkered eye.  Yup, the majority!  Now of course I didn’t ask every one, and sometimes I was carrying my white cane so I got the sensitive assistance I’d request, but I got a great lift whenever I’d ask a stranger if they knew the symbol and the answer was “yes”!

Okay so that’s the up side of this blog entry.

Upon returning from my little vacation in our nation’s capital, I took a seat at my desk to review telephone messages.  One was from an eye doctor in London, Ontario, who last year had requested a supply of checkered eyes to sell from his office.  He had decided that since he wasn’t selling many of them, he’d return his remaining stock and discontinue making them available from his office.  I find this disappointing.  Not only will the CEP lose an outlet, but we’ll lose the little credibility boost we get by having this eye doctor on our “where to get one” page.  We have several drug stores and one other optometrist’s office so that will do for now.

Neither of these bits of news is all that significant I suppose.  They are ice chips in the slushy that is the Checkered Eye Project: sweet and refreshing at times, if it goes the wrong way it can make me choke, and too much all at once can give me brain freeze!


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Daredevil and Impressions

Since I’m a fan of Halloween and costumes and that’s on my mind lately, I’ll start off this piece with a mention of the blind superhero Daredevil.  I still haven’t come up with just the right way to make myself a Daredevil costume, but I’m working on it.  As the story goes he loses his sight in an accident where he is exposed to a radioactive substance, which ends up heightening his other senses.  His enhanced senses become his superpowers.

BElow is an image of Daredevil.  It appears that his white cane turns into either a whip or a rope.  Very impressive!

While average sighted folk may find it amazing that things can be done sightlessly, I’ve heard some blind people get a bit cranky about others marveling at how they carry on at all living with what seems to be a devastating hardship.  I’ve heard real annoyance expressed after someone was commended for merely walking across the street. I can understand how that might get bothersome if it happens day in and day out.  Personally I kind of like it when people tell me how amazing they think I am!


Along the same lines, sensitivity training that involves blindfolding people and getting them to attempt various tasks without sight or any training on how to do things without sight, may give the wrong impression.  It may give the feeling of helplessness and that blind people are not able to do much without help, unless they are extraordinarily talented.  This may make them less likely to consider hiring a blind person.



I can see the merits of trying things blindfolded in order to figure out what changes might make them more user friendly for people with impaired or no sight. However if input is also gained by consulting and observing people who are skilled at functioning without vision, that would give a more balanced impression of the “blind experience”.

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Involvement with the International Standards Organization

Involvement with the International Standards Organization (ISO)


In early 2014, when the Ontario government was inviting feedback regarding the customer service segment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), I asked some Checkered Eye Project (CEP) supporters to add a specific point.  The point I hoped to convey was that since the AODA is specific in its requirement that people who provide customer service understand certain tools, such as service animals, we think they should also be required to recognize any symbols whose purpose is to communicate a hidden disability, such as the checkered eye and the various types of white canes.


When one of the CEP supporters provided her feedback, it was misunderstood as a request for the government to come up with a symbol for low vision.  She sent me the e-mail she’d received so I could address it directly.  After clarifying the message for this person, I focused on a suggestion he had offered: he suggested she contact the International Standards Organization (ISO) with the goal in mind of implementing a symbol for low vision. The fact that a person familiar with governmental procedures thought that contacting the ISO would be a useful course of action excited me.


So I got busy researching exactly what the ISO is and what they do.  Very simply, they are a group that develops standards that are voluntarily adhered to, with the intent of facilitating international health, safety, and trade.  The Standards Council of Canada (SCC) is a part of the ISO and has various committees.  I discovered that my timing was fortuitous as the ISO was in the process of reviewing international standards for graphical symbols.  The people with whom I was discussing this issue suggested that to present the checkered eye for consideration, I’d have to be involved in the process.

So the SCC has a technical committee (TC) involved with the graphical symbols review and I asked how to become a part of that technical committee.  Still following?


I was forwarded some online courses which I eagerly studied.  They were not very accessible to me as they were presented in power point formats which my software couldn’t read aloud.  Fortunately they were brief and I could enlarge them enough to read visually.  At the end of each segment I was e-mailed a printable certificate; seemed a bit juvenile but I liked it!


The next step was to apply for membership.  I was asked to submit a completed form along with my CV.  After discovering that CV was another term for resume, I felt a bit stumped.  I’ve been a full time Mom for over 2 decades and my work history previous to that was largely in unskilled clerical work and restaurants.  

I e-mailed my contact at ISO who thanked me for my honesty and said he’d look into this.  He e-mailed me back to suggest I write a letter reflecting what I’d told him and he’d take it to the committee.  About a week later I got an e-mail welcoming me to the SMC/ISO/TC145SC1!  Yippee!


My duties as a committee member entailed reading.  Yup more reading.  I was a bit concerned about being able to keep up until what I think was my second document.  This particular document outlined the requirements any graphical symbol would have to meet in order to be considered an international standard.  It would have to be recognized a percentage of the time and in a number of countries, that is more like the goal the CEP is striving for than a status it already meets. 


So since my whole point in participating with this ISO TC was to gain recognition for the checkered eye, it seemed that my involvement was mistakenly undertaken.


My contacts were very understanding and gracious when I let them know I’d be stepping down. 


All in all it was an interesting experience.  I learned a bit about the complexities of governing something as vast as global trade and how specific the language must be for such a process.  I enjoyed getting the little “ticky marks” for completing the brief courses I took, and I successfully applied for a position in the International Standards Organization!  Well actually it was a sub-committee to the technical committee of a mirror committee to the International Standards Organization but hey, that’s something!

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