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The Checkered Eye Project

People wearing this symbol have partial blindness aka low vision.

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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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Lifestyle and your sight.

This month’s blog is from Lisa Bonet, a health-writer whose family member had vision trouble due to a condition they thouhght was unrelated to eye health.  The article she contributed contains several links, some of which contain a bit more advertising than I like, but they all direct to relevant information so I’ve left them in. 

Enjoy.

When we think about our eyes and their health, we don’t necessarily tend to assume things like our body weight, or other factors like drinking and smoking as being something that would affect them. However, poor lifestyle choices – not all necessarily related to diet can actually have a detrimental effect on your vision and the overall well-being of your eyes. For further explanation on how you can help protect your visual health with sensible living, please read the article below which offers practical advice on eye care and how to protect yourself against the potential for problems to develop.

Poor Lifestyle Choices Damage Your Vision Too

Although you probably take your vision for granted, it might be time to take better care of your eyes, as the number of people in the US who suffer from poor eyesight that isn’t correctable with lenses is on the increase. While researchers believe the increasing number of eye problems is closely linked to the growing number of cases of type 2 diabetes, which when poorly controlled is a common cause of blindness, diabetes isn’t the only factor related to lifestyle that can put your eye health at risk. You’re no doubt already familiar with the need to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV light and the development of cataracts, but there are various other steps you can take to safeguard your eye health. In fact, you may not realize that lifestyle choices linked to chronic health problems are also bad news for your eyesight.

Obesity

Not many people have heard of it, but around 100,000 people suffer from idiopathic intracranial hypertension in the US, and what most of them have in common is that they are significantly overweight. Typical symptoms include blind spots, poor vision in the periphery, double vision and temporary loss of sight. However, as many as 10% of people with the condition lose their sight permanently. While drugs used in the treatment of glaucoma show promise for managing idiopathic intracranial hypertension, losing as little as 5% of your body weight can improve symptoms, and avoiding excess weight gain can prevent the problem arising from the outset.

Smoking

Age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of blindness in older adults and while advancing age and a family history of the disease is most commonly associated with its development, whether you smoke also influences your risk of this eye condition. Indeed, research indicates that smoking makes you more than twice as likely to develop age-related macular degeneration as a non-smoker, with recent investigations showing that tar and other components of cigarette smoke are deposited in the retina. If you already smoke, this is yet another reason to encourage you to quit.

Heavy Drinking

While you probably don’t imagine that the amount you drink could harm your eyes, there is evidence to suggest this is the case. Current alcohol recommendations advise that women should drink no more than 7 drinks over the week and men at most 14 drinks, with a study showing that having more than 2 alcoholic drinks daily makes you significantly more likely to need cataract surgery. However, there is no need to avoid alcohol altogether, as the same study found that drinking within recommended limits poses a lower risk of cataracts than not drinking at all.

Poor Intake of Micronutrients

Although it is often said that eating carrots regularly aids your vision thanks to their beta-carotene content, this isn’t the only nutrient that you need for good eyesight. Your body also needs a daily supply of lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, as they all have different roles in promoting the health of your eyes. As these nutrients are provided by a diverse range of foods, from oily fish for omega-3 fatty acids to green and orange fruit and vegetables for lutein, it is essential that you eat a balanced diet every day, including all food groups. Failure to do so can leave you short on micronutrients, which in the long-term can impair your vision. While a balanced micronutrient supplement offers a safety net, the same benefits may not be gained as obtaining these vitamins and minerals naturally from foods.

Inactivity

Regular exercise doesn’t simply keep your heart and lungs in good condition and help you to maintain a healthy weight, it may also offer protection against age-related macular degeneration. Even though this is still a relatively new area of research, scientists demonstrated in animal studies that an hour of exercise on 5 days of the week protected the structure and function of the retina when exposed to conditions likely to induce damage. Indeed, mice who exercised had twice as many functioning photoreceptors after exposure to bright light than the inactive mice did. Although studies in humans are needed to see whether an active lifestyle protects against retinal damage over time, with the range of health benefits already offered by physical activity, taking daily exercise is advisable.

Poor Sexual Health

Sexually transmitted infections don’t just infect your reproductive organs; they can affect your eye health as well. You may be aware that chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause pink eye, but did you know that it is also possible for herpes to infect your eyes as well? Although infections of herpes are sometimes asymptomatic, when it affects your eyes you may notice signs of conjunctivitis and tiny skin lesions around your eye. If it is your initial outbreak, you may also experience a fever, headache and swollen lymph nodes. Whatever your symptoms, it is important you seek medical advice, as if untreated herpes in the eye can damage your cornea and permanently affect your vision. Once you have the herpes virus, it can recur at any time, though minimizing stress, achieving a balance between rest and exercise, and eating a nutritious diet help to enhance your immune function to reduce the risk of further outbreaks. However, the best action is to protect yourself from STIs by practicing safe sex and taking a yearly STD check to confirm you are free from these infections.

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Seeing at 16 - A post by guest blogger David MacBrien

David MacBrien is a long time friend of Checkered Eye Project Founder Libby THaw.  They worked together at a same day courier in downtown Toronto in the 1980s, and at least once a decade, celebrate their August birthdays together.

This photo depicts David playing an acoustic guitar.

My first encounter with the blind occurred when I was a fledgling guitar player in a Christian folk rock choir in the 60's. His name was Clint. Clint taught himself to play guitar overhand, which is an accomplishment on its own.

 

It was sort of a rite of passage when I was asked to take Clint into the concert for the first time. Aside from leading him past various patch chords, chairs , music stands and mic stands , it's important to remember that many of the churches we sang in were built when people were shorter. Clint, being a good six foot six, was always at risk of bumping his head. This gave me another dimension to worry about.

 

So once seated I thought, " What do I say to a blind guy?" Turns out, pretty much what you say to a sighted person. Clint and I developed this little joke, where I would whisper "cute girl looking at you 20 degrees left" and he would turn his head and wink.

 

I have found, though, that being funny can be be insensitive. I often open my mouth to change feet. Nobody likes being treated with pity but at the same time you can't ignore a disability. So where is that fine line?

 

Beats me! I just try to be kind and go from there.

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