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The Checkered Eye Project

People wearing this symbol have partial blindness aka low vision.



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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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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