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The Checkered Eye Project

People wearing this symbol have partial blindness aka low vision.



Party Pooper?

Here it is, the party season and yup it’s me, I’m the party pooper.  Not a complete party pooper though, I love the feasting and gathering of the month of December, and I know I mentioned in last December’s blog post that there are lots of joys of the season that I like and that don’t require acute eyesight, but I’m going to talk about some of the seasonal things that I find less pleasurable.


Parades and most greeting cards are inaccessible to me. When I had little kids I certainly enjoyed their excitement at watching festive floats go by, but I generally wasn’t able to see details or point things out to them. All I will say about greeting cards is this: my friend Pam gave me a stellar example for my 50th birthday.  It was an entire sheet of Bristol board with suitably large text and therefore it was easily accessible for me.  Thanks Pammy!


Some who know me well know I don’t like candles.  For the same reason I don’t like camp fires or fireworks either.  Here’s why: If you look right at a camera when the flash goes off, You know how the flash creates a little blind spot for just a sec?  Well average sighted folks may not notice this but things like candle flames; little bits of concentrated brightness, create temporary blind spots in peripheral vision also. Since I only have peripheral vision, these extra blind spots make me blinder than usual.  I find that a nuisance.


Christmas trees are not as bad, usually!


So I’m actually not a party pooper, I just have trouble enjoying some possible elements of various parties.


And now to show I’m not a total Scrooge, a poem.  This was inspired by the “post childhood experience” of December and the potential diverse ways to participate in what I like to call the season of joyous excess.


For children there’s the mystery of Santa

Or the wonder of what gifts eight nights may bring

Now I’m in on lots of secrets

It has started me to thinking:

How will I delight myself in years to be?


If you’re not Jewish or a Christian in this season,

You still might get some time off work without big reasons

Do not fret I’ve got a theory

I’ve been pondering this query.

There are other ways to view this time of year:


It’s Midway!


Midway through the longest nights

When there’s lots of snow and ice

Midway through the time when days are very short


So if you’re cold put on a sweater

And pretty lights make darkness better

And generosity can help us all feel good


We’re giving!


I might enjoy the shopping frenzy

I willl share my plenty plenty

And I’ll get a little fat from sweet excess.


I’d like to learn the things you do

And I’ll show you my stuff too

And we’ll all have food and drink and fancy dress.


It’s Festive!


Some will pray and some will visit

For some it’s sacred, some it isn’t

For those down south it’s not short days and freezing weather.


So if we like it or we don’t

It is a chance for us to note

That this time does not go on and on forever.


It’s Present!


Midway through the longest nights

Midway through the pretty lights

Midway through the time when darkness brings us down


So if we like it or we don’t

It’s quite important that we note

That our time does not go on and on forever.


Let’s party!

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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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