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The Checkered Eye Project

People wearing this symbol have partial blindness aka low vision.




I recently started ice skating for a bit of exercise.  My hubby Ray and I go to the one hour “older adult skate” a few times a week.  It’s a good thing they don’t call it “mature adult skate” because Ray’s such a goofball they’d never let him in for that.

Being your average Canadian girl, I skated as a kid, mostly on outdoor rinks and frozen ponds.  My Dad would make a rink in our backyard too so I even played a bit of hockey with the family and neighborhood kids.  I can’t recall exactly the circumstances but I’m pretty sure I did a bit of figure skating; it might have been in phys. ed. class.  What I’m saying is that I’m not a complete beginner at skating.

I’ve been having a bit of knee trouble lately so before going I just thought I’d want to be super careful not to wipe out or even have a near wipe out.  I didn’t want to twist my knee or bang it up at all.   I was glad I wouldn’t have any little kids to avoid and felt confident that I’d be able to see my way around and any slow moving skaters I might have to maneuver past. 

You know what I didn’t expect to have trouble seeing?  My laces!  Obviously I haven’t been skating since my sight has diminished to the point where such detail is lost for me. So I’d just yank on the laces I’d get a hold of, figure if I was tightening or not, regrip and keep going.  Getting just one hook at a time on the upper part of the boot, or the next one in order was a crap shoot.  I actually worked up a bit of a sweat fastening up the blades!  And since I was being so careful watching my surroundings as I skated, I never bothered glancing down to see if the laces were coming loose – of course I wouldn’t have been able to see that, would I!  So I was easily able to keep my mind from wandering off to my “to do” list or anything in the past or future because I was making sure to notice my present surroundings and whether or not my skates felt like they were still on tight!  It makes for a very meditative hour.

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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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