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The Checkered Eye Project

People wearing this symbol have partial blindness aka low vision.



Perceiving My Perception

This photo depicts me standing in fron of a stuffed moose on the porch of an old tourist shop.

Recently I’ve had some illustrations of how hard it is for people to be able to understand what I can or can’t see.


I took a road trip with my sister Sue in early June.  We drove from Thunder Bay to Sudbury.  Sue has taken this drive many times and she knows how beautiful the scenery is.  As we drove along and I frequently exclaimed  “oh look at that”, she told me that she’d been puzzling for weeks about how she’d be able to describe to me the gorgeous vistas we’d be encountering all along our way.  Clearly she didn’t think I’d be able to see them.


Before our trip Sue and I had been in Thunder Bay to attend her daughter Kara’s graduation ceremony at Lakehead University.  Our Mom had also attended the event.  Having all come from out of town, Mom, Sue, and I all stayed together in a hotel.  My Mom brought her tablet with her and was struggling to get it connected to the hotel’s internet.  I got out my little magnifying glass and, with considerable difficulty, managed to get her connected.  As the evening went along, she’d periodically hand the tablet to me in order for me to do something for her.  Clearly she’d forget that I can’t see it very well.


It seems like there were 2 or 3 instances within a few days when my son Sam noticed that I spotted a little tiny wee spec of something on the floor or on a counter. Each time he’d ask in amazement “Mom, how did you see that?”


So if you’re an average sighted person, don’t feel bad if you make an assumption about what someone can’t see and then they point it out to you!  And if you’re a person with low vision, be patient with people who forget you can’t see well or who think you can see even less than you can!


P.S. During the northern Ontario road trip, I saw a moose grazing at the side of the road!  Yup, they're huge!

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I recently had an opportunity to tape a 30 minute segment on a health related talk show.  In the weeks before the taping I’d made myself abit nervous about it.  Which are the most important points?  How will I make sure to get to them all?  How will I get it to flow in a sequence that makes the most sense? I wrote many drafts of outlines to send to Carol Merton, the host of the show then finally, contacted her to ask if we could discuss it before the taping date.

Carol was very generous with her time and we had our telephone meeting on a weekend.

Carol let me know that her usual plan of action is to start from the beginning.  In the first 7 or 8 minutes of the show she goes through an introduction of the guest and the basics of the topic. 

This didn’t go with what I’d written!  I thought we’d talk about blindness in general at first, get to the white cane and how it had started off as a symbol only, then when I’d talk about how it’s no longer as well understood in its function as just a symbol, I’d segue into talking about the checkered eye.

So I decided to rewrite my outline to go along with Carol’s standard procedure.  After all, she’s the expert here.  Well actually, in our phone chat Carol had mentioned that I am the expert on the checkered eye…I had a light bulb moment: If we have a full 30 minutes to sit and talk about the checkered eye project, surely I can manage to get around to the most important points about it!

Again life reminded me to be present, do my best in the moment, and trust myself to deal with the outcome.  

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The Checkered Eye Project is working to get some information to the world. We want people to understand that the checkered eye symbol indicates that its wearer has low vision.  We also want people with low vision to know this wearable symbol is an option for them, and how to get one if they want to try it.

Access to information has historically had major barriers for people with poor or no vision. Braille, audio formats, and adaptive features for computers have all helped quite a bit with that.

So I am now doing a lot of reading and writing.  This can be tough because the information, the tool with which I’m trying to improve one little thing for people with low vision, isn’t always accessible to me.  Then there are the situations when I am reading and writing in my capacity as a volunteer member of the local Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC).  In that scenario I am commenting on safety issues for people with vision disabilities, and also access to information. 

On occasion the document I am asked to read is not accessible to me and my friend Tracey at the Municipal office is terrific for doing what she can until she has a version that’s accessible to me.


I’m no literary expert, but I think this fits the definition of ironic.


From Irony: atechniqueofindicating,asthroughcharacterorplotdevelopment,anintentionorattitudeoppositetothat which isactuallyorostensiblystated.


So here I am doing my little part to help make the world more accessible to people with disabilities by doing something that my own disability makes difficult.  This was painfully (yes painfully) demonstrated lately when I was looking into adding my two cents to the review of the customer service segment of Ontario’s accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).  I’d like to make it clear that there are plenty of people with vision disabilities who use computers with adaptive software and are quite proficient at it.  I however am not one of those people.  What makes it worse just lately is that my set up is getting old and therefore it fails me quite regularly.


So I wanted to comment on a law.  In my opinion one should be familiar with something that one wishes to discuss.  So I read it.  I read it.  Such a short and simple sentence to describe the process of seeking, finding, attempting to read, failing, restarting my computer, trying again, quitting, going for a walk, trying again, throwing myself on the floor, blogging, trying again……..


Is it like the people with physical disabilities building the ramps? 

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