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The Checkered Eye Project

People wearing this symbol have partial blindness aka low vision.



Go ahead punk, mock a blind chick!

Years ago, there was a public service announcement on tv. It was put out by an agency that provides services to blind people. I believe it was inspired by my requests for them to help with the awareness effort for the checkered eye symbol for low vision. One of their reasons for not helping was that there is a symbol for blindness already; the white cane. I acknowledged that and told them that I use one myself but that it’s not always the best option to communicate my blindness. Few people understand that white canes may be used by people with many levels of blindness, not just completely blind people, so while improving understanding of the cane, let’s also inform people about the wearable blindness symbol, the checkered eye. They declined to help with checkered eye awareness but came up with a series of PSAs to inform people that “not all people who look blind are completely blind”.

In one of the spots, a young boy waves his hands mockingly in front of the face of a man carrying a white cane.

Here’s my fantasy of what I’d do if a kid did that to me.

Description: I, a slightly smaller than average adult female, walk up to an intersection where two young men are leaning on the stop sign. I am carrying my white ID cane and I stop. One of the young men elbows his friend as if to say “watch this” then gets all up in my face waving his hands around.

I give him a swift left hook and he lands face down on the ground.

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Wrong way! ARE YOU BLIND!?!


Image description: an angry exasperated emoji face.

There are signs posted everywhere. There are arrows on the floor plainly indicating which way you can go. Footprint stickers show where you can stand. Everyone can see that. Or can they?


No. The simple answer is that not everyone can see the” new rules” signs, lane indicators, and marks to show where you can stand.

Things have changed and things are potentially risky to your health. This ramps up the overall tension so that sometimes the most even-tempered person may respond to another person’s error with exasperation.


For those of us anywhere on the blindness spectrum the experience of going out into society can be more stressful than for that of the average-sighted person. And that was before the COVID-19 complications. Many of us have assistance to manage living with the new procedures, and many do not. If you live independently and do not have access to support, you have to go out and take care of business yourself.


With this in mind, I’d like to remind everyone, and particularly those who work with the public, that there is a spectrum of blindness and both the white cane and the wearable checkered eye symbol indicate that their user is on that spectrum.

To sum up:

- there are new rules posted

- blind people can’t see the signs

- check for the checkered eye, watch for white canes and please have some understanding.





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Postponement Unrelated to Coronavirus

Each year during Canada’s White Cane Week the Checkered Eye Project does a little extra awareness boost. Our main focus is of course ensuring that as many people as possible understand that if they see someone wearing the checkered eye symbol, it means that person is communicating the fact that they are on the blindness spectrum. We also include information about the different kinds of white canes used by people on the blindness spectrum, and that’s not just because the occasion is called “White Cane Week”, it’s part of our ongoing awareness effort.



Well this year is 20 20. Many people are using references to this number as if it applies to vision.: Let’s focus, it’s 20 20, 20 20 a year of vision, watch out it’s 20 20…

You can likely imagine that I saw this coming for a few years. I figured I should be doing something big in the year 2020 and started working on some promo items last year. I wasn’t sure how I’d use them so they were designed in a way that they’d be useful on an ongoing basis.


I worked with my trusty graphics guy and came up with some posters that I think are really cool. 

I was very excited to show people the accessible versions of the posters and some inexpensive gadgets that businesses could use to make existing information accessible.  

I also enlisted a few friends to help me host an awareness event, possibly a series of them, and decided to call it a “Drop In”. I came up with some activities people can try doing without sight or with impaired sight, arranged a room for the event, and was ready to have our last meeting to finalize room set up, when something very sad happened.


My brother Steve passed away suddenly.


I cancelled the event and went to spend some time with my family.


The drop in had been scheduled to take place on the last day of white cane week which is the first week of February. This can be a terrible time to plan events where I live, in an area referred to as the snow belt. A silver lining is glimmering slightly as a postponement could mean better likelihood of people being interested in coming out to an event.


Steve is actually prominently featured on one of the promotional posters I’d created for the 2020 drop in. It’s a poster that states “People on the blindness spectrum achieve. Accessibility helps make things happen.” The poster was supposed to have a photo of a few individuals and either their logo or a depiction of them doing something cool. I’d requested these images from a few people on the spectrum who are achieving impressive stuff, one of whom was Steve. I had a photo of one of his stunning landscape paintings and a great one of him taking pictures in his studio set up. He’s definitely one of the people I know who demonstrated the point that, if all you know about a person is that they have a disability, you don’t know what they can or can’t do.

However, the only images that were of adequate resolution to enlarge were the ones I had of Steve.

The “blind people achieve” poster had been the final one worked on and I was now going to have to ask for replacement photos in a rush. I decided not to do that and by this time, I was cutting it close, so, in order to have the poster produced on time, I went ahead with just Steve’s images and some open space. I planned to print the other images separately and add those people later, possibly different ones each time I do the event.

So, due to the sad event in late January, and the result of a seemingly insignificant organizational shortcoming, the first drop in will be scheduled during better travelling weather, and my brother Steve will forever be featured on a poster involved in contributing to the greater good of people on the blindness spectrum. I’m thinking of calling the event The Steve Kennedy Memorial Checkered Eye Drop In. Or maybe I’ll save that title for when I do the one with the live music called The Checkered Eye Ball! He was a music fan too. We’ll see!

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