Today for the first time ever I walked uptown and back carrying my white ID cane the whole time. I’ve had one for many years and used it lots when I’m travelling on my own but never here in my home town. I still don’t need it to feel my way around but since my sight has deteriorated a bit recently and I’ve been having a bit more trouble determining whether or not there is a car coming, I decided it’s safer to use it than not. The gorgeous sunshine made the idea of a walk very appealing but it also makes it difficult for me to see.
A few months ago I scrapped the quick and convenient transport of my bicycle, unless of course I’m taking a particularly safe route and the lighting is just right, and of course it’s not rush minute here in teeny weeny Port Elgin. So today when I had a few errands to run and my driver was not available, I took out my little traffic safety beacon and headed out on foot.
Actually, I second guessed my decision several times before I left the house. It all happened within the few minutes it took to put on my coat and shoes; maybe I’ll leave it in my purse till I’m walking back with the sun in my eyes…but no, there’s that trouble spot right up the block…well I can just get it out then…but sometimes a situation arises unexpectedly when I wish I had it in my hand… okay, I’m getting it out now and keeping it out!
So that’s what I did. It was fine. Nobody pointed and laughed. Nobody called me a faker when I looked at my watch. Oh yeah but there was that girl in the bank who looked at my cane and asked if I was going to wack people. I think she was intellectually challenged so I said no and then asked her if she knew what the cane meant. She said no so I told her it means I can’t see well, pointed to my checkered eye and told her it means the same thing. She said “you should have a dog” and walked away! I irritated myself for a second and then just chuckled. What can you do!?.
All in all, it was a good experience. I didn’t feel self-conscious and I did feel safer. It was the right thing to do today.
Last week I got a call from an inspiring lady. Leanne called to order some checkered eyes for a friend. He has low vision and doesn’t use a cane for mobility so, like me, he is often mistaken as fully sighted. She said her friend looks a bit like a rough character even though he is a real sweetheart. She said she’s pretty sure people assume he’s drunk or on something if he stumbles in public. She was heartbroken that he had fallen recently and not a single person offered him a hand. Leanne mentioned that her friend doesn’t have a lot of money so I offered to send his order at no charge. Leanne wouldn’t hear of it, she insisted on paying; she wants to help with our awareness effort.
She was also more than a bit upset with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). She said she had spoken to three different people there and no one would tell her anything about how to find checkered eyes. I have called many of their offices to give them the checkered eye Project’s phone number and web address, and also asked if they could make this information available to all front line contact people. I think this makes sense since people naturally assume the checkered eye is a CNIB project. However, I was told that they wouldn’t make this information available to their info line staff as it isn’t one of their products or services.
Fortunately for Leanne’s friend she persisted and found the checkered eye website. She also has offered to help him inform people in his community about the checkered eye. I always send pamphlets and info cards with all mail orders to help checkered eye users do just that. The symbol works best when people are already aware of it and its meaning so each user can bring information to friends and family and to the businesses they frequent. That way those of us who use it are pioneers and will make the checkered eye more effective for those who follow.
Hats off to Leanne and people like her who take care of their own and do what they can for the greater good.
I glanced through my phone log for the month of October and found there was quite a bit of activity there.
I made 3 custom orders: a tee shirt with checkered eyes on the front and back, a laminated 6 inch checkered eye to be attached to a walker, and a lanyard style checkered eye.
I was contacted by 2 low vision support groups: one ultimately seemed a bit dismissive and the other placed a huge order. I gave them the wholesale price of course!
I was approached by a CNIB staff member who is very supportive of the checkered eye and is trying to get the organization more involved. I contacted some of the CNIB who have been supportive in the past and connected them with this new enthusiast. We'll have to wait and see what happens with that - well, maybe with a bit of prodding here and there!
A lady in California, who wrote and published a self-help type of book about living with low vision, wants to put the checkered eye on the cover of her upcoming re-issue. We have been in discussions about that. I find that very exciting.
One of the custom orders I made this month was requested by a fellow in North Carolina who communicates with me through sign language interpreters – by phone! He uses some kind of video calling, contacts an interpretation service, they call me, and we have a discussion that way – so cool!
Lots of threads to keep pulling…