Libby Thaw On Symbols Of Low Vision

The header is a blurred photo of a cute dog sitting under a blanket. This is only one representation of what low vision can be like for some people. It presents differently in everyone as Libby said in her interview.

Beauty Buzz/Blog Biz | Symbols Of Low Vision

Editor’s Note:

In 2009 when I received my final diagnosis of legal blindness it was at that point no more could be done medically to restore my sight. Medically speaking, “we’re sorry, there is no more we can do for you,” are words no one wants to hear. At that moment I didn’t react but later I felt like my world was closing in on me and I wasn’t sure how to continue.

Enter Libby Thaw, a multi-talented, feisty ball of energy who gave me a lifeline. Libby has been featured here on Bold Blind Beauty a number of times and I’m thrilled to once again present her to you. This lady never stops and she was recently highlighted on CTV in Canada to talk about her passion—low vision awareness. Below the video is the transcription of the conversation. Enjoy!

“I love to tell people and show people that I can juggle because it’s just the most plain demonstration of the fact that if all you know about someone is that they’re legally blind, you really don’t know much about what they can or can’t do. And they just might surprise you.”

~Libby Thaw
CTV Morning Show May 2021

Speaker 1:

Favorite wrestler of mine. Okay. Let’s throw it now back over to Jen.

The Checkered Eye emblem is a simple line drawing of an eye, the center of which, the iris, is black and white checkers. The wearable symbol bears the Checkered Eye and the text "LOW VISION".  It has been translated to French, Spanish, and Thai as well. The background is white, the outline, emblem, and text are black. 
The Checkered Eye

Jennifer:

The Checkered Eye Project was founded in 2000 by Libby Thaw a stay-at-home mother from port Elgin, Ontario. Living with low vision herself, Thaw noticed an unmet need for a hands-free identifier that could also be discreet if need be. That’s when the Checkered Eye was born. To learn more about it and how it’s helping people around the world we are joined this morning by Libby Thaw herself. Good morning to you.

Libby Thaw:

Good morning, Jennifer.

Jennifer:

Thank you so much for joining us. So just to start off here, what is the Checkered Eye Project all about?

Libby:

Yeah. Well, it’s all about understanding people who have low vision. Low vision is another way to say partial blindness. So I’m a person who is partially blind and most of the time you really can’t tell. So I have the option of wearing a Checkered Eyes symbol. You can wear it as a patch or pendant or a pin, or even, a clothing safe sticker. And it helps me communicate the fact that I can’t see well,

Jennifer:

But it’s not actually for safety though. Is that correct?

Libby:

Exactly. Right, yeah. The Checkered Eye is for face-to-face situations where I may already be engaged with a person and it just helps me let them know that I can’t see well. Now if I need drivers to know that I can’t see well, my best option for that situation is the internationally understood and recognized symbol for blindness the white cane.

And we need a lot better public understanding of the white ID cane, which is the type I use. It’s a little smaller, it is not a tool for feeling my way around, it is just a symbol. And we actually need better understanding of the white support cane. So that’s the type that someone would use to lean on and if that happens to be white, it wasn’t just today’s color choice for the outfit, it is still a symbol for blindness. So both the Checkered Eye and the white cane, they give the same message, the person using it has some degree of blindness.

Jennifer:

I did not know that there were differences with the canes. That’s very interesting that you’re sharing that with us here. And you know, oftentimes when we hear that someone is blind, we think of total and complete vision loss, but that’s not always the case. So can you talk to us more about the blindness spectrum and what that means?

Libby:

Yes. Well, there are lots of different causes for blindness. It could be illness or injury. There are genetic causes of blindness and they all cause different types of blindness. So a lot of these types will leave remaining useful eyesight. I’m a perfect example of someone like this. I’m well past the threshold of being legally blind and I can still see quite a bit.

So, we also need people to understand that on this spectrum, for some people, the blindness is brand new. So they’re just learning how to live their lives with vision loss. So again, both of those symbols, just give you that one piece of information. The Checkered Eye and the white cane, they both just say, “I am on the blindness spectrum.”

Jennifer:

It’s great to have those symbols as tools to let other people know. And of course, you started this project more than 20 years ago now, how has that sort of taken off? And what’s the one thing that you hope that the general public takes away or understands about blindness as a result of this project that you started?

Libby:

Well, the really important thing is that there is a spectrum of blindness. You know, there, like I said, lots of different types of blindness. And so if somebody says blind, you need to know more if you are interacting with that person and just talk to them about it. There’s lots of different types of blindness.

Jennifer:

Yeah. And it’s great to be able to understand, you know, a specific individual’s needs so that you can accommodate them or interact with them properly. That’s wonderful that you have that sort of symbol to help out with that. And Libby just, before we wrap up here, I had a note that you actually know how to juggle, which is very impressive. I think we have a video actually that, was sent into us. How did you learn how to juggle? I have no idea how to myself,

Libby:

Well, lots of practice. And I love to tell people and show people that I can juggle because it’s just the most plain demonstration of the fact that if all you know about someone is that they’re legally blind, you really don’t know much about what they can or can’t do. And they just might surprise you.

Jennifer:

Well said. Well, thank you so much for this interview this morning. It was very informative, I, myself, learned a lot from you. And thank you so much for everything you’re doing with the Checkered Eye Project.

Libby:

Thank you.

Jennifer:

All right. That was Libby Thaw, Founder of the Checker Eye Project. For more information, you can find a direct link on our website. Stick with us CTV morning live. We’ll be right back after this quick break.

Connecting With Libby:

Image Descriptions:

  • The header is a blurred photo of a cute dog sitting under a blanket. This is only one representation of what low vision can be like for some people. It presents differently in everyone as Libby said in her interview.
  • The Checkered Eye emblem is a simple line drawing of an eye, the center of which, the iris, is black and white checkers. The wearable symbol bears the Checkered Eye and the text “LOW VISION”.  It has been translated to French, Spanish and Thai as well. The background is white, the outline, emblem and text are black. 

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