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Tell A Friend Tuesday!

Lost In Two Worlds

Blindness Symbols: For traffic safety - the white cane; For low vision recognition - the Checkered EyeMy friend and fellow “Woman on the Move,” Libby Thaw of The Checkered Eye Project, began a Facebook campaign earlier this year to increase awareness on low vision. I’ve featured Libby several times on Bold Blind Beauty and today I thought I’d share the ‘Tellafriend Tuesday,’ campaign here.

One of the joys I receive from this blog is the sense of community among our members. In addition to sharing style tips with women who are blind or sight impaired, I wanted to create a space where we can talk openly about blindness/sight loss to bring together sighted and non-sighted communities to share our experiences and learn from one another.

On a number of occasions we’ve talked about the vast range of sight loss, how blind people appear, and the dichotomy of living in the sighted and non-sighted world. For many people with low vision one of our major pain points is not being fully sighted yet not being fully blind. Case in point, check out the photos in this post of a few of my lovely friends who, if you were not aware, have sight loss.

Terri Rupp
Terri Rupp
Joy & Jenelle
Joy & Jenelle

Adapting to losing a major sense like eyesight is extremely difficult physically and compounded emotionally by the frustration of a hidden disability that others do not, or cannot understand. Think of it this way: if someone who appears healthy is diagnosed with cancer no one would say to that person “you don’t look like you have cancer.” The same holds true for people with low vision who may or may not require mobility aids.

Holly & baby Aoife Bonner
Holly & Aoife Bonner
Suzanne Gibson
Suzanne Gibson

Looking or not looking blind does not alter the fact that a person with significant sight loss may function well due to adaptability to their environment. What this means in part is once we’ve gotten the lay of the land we may not need to rely on our mobility devices if we use such devices to navigate. However if an unannounced change should occur within that environment it could cause a serious mishap.

Kimberly White
Kimberly White
Amy Bovaird Book signing
Amy Bovaird

Libby created the Checkered Eye to aid people with sight loss self identify their disability in face-to-face interactions and to help sighted people recognize that when a person is wearing the symbol it means that individual has sight loss. The black and white checkered eye—an image of a simple eye the center of which, the iris, is black and white checkers bears the text “LOW VISION”—is a wearable symbol to indicate its user has a sight impairment.

Jill Khoury Poet
Jill Khoury
Libby Thaw
Libby Thaw

What Can You Do To Help?

Since Tellafriend Tuesday is movement to increase understanding on sight loss Libby is asking us to share the message on social media.

You can help Libby tell the whole world there’s a “blindness spectrum” by sharing this blog post or downloading and sharing the “Blindness Symbols” image in this post.

Not everyone who looks sighted is fully sighted. Not everyone with a guide dog or white cane is fully blind. A bit of understanding can go a long way in the lives of people who are already managing some real difficulties.

Please share on your Facebook timeline, Twitter and/or Instagram and see if you can get a friend to share too! THANKS!

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WOTM 6 Featuring Libby Thaw

WOTM Featuring Libby Thaw

Libby The Visionary

Collage of Libby Thaw (one picture of Libby performing at the microphone and two headshots of her)
Libby Thaw

In December, 2009 it had been 6 months since I was declared legally blind and it felt as if everything in my life was spiraling out of control. Since my vision loss is a hidden disability this was one of the most challenging aspects of the ordeal. It was right around this time that I met Libby Thaw who offered me a lifeline.

The feeling of isolation one can experience when they lose their vision can leave you with a paralyzing fear that you can never make it out of the dark abyss. Because I knew I wasn’t emotionally ready to use the white cane Libby’s Checkered Eye Project (CEP), an international low vision awareness effort, was the perfect solution for me.

“Everybody, including people with disabilities, makes assumptions. Problems arise when we are not open to learning our assumption was wrong.” ~Libby

Libby Thaw, a wife and stay at home mother who resides in Port Elgin, Ontario Canada founded the CEP in 2000. I remember during one of our many conversations Libby told me the CEP idea evolved out of a chat with a couple of like-minded individuals. The concept was simple and revolved around a discreet hands-free option for people with low vision to self-identify to let others know of their disability.

Libby, who also happens to be legally blind, understands the difficulties one encounters with loss of vision. On one hand, people with low-vision can be challenged with day-to-day tasks yet on the other hand, to the general public, their disability is not apparent. It’s because of this hidden disability that Libby designed an emblem representative of, and for those impacted with, significant vision loss.

The CE is a pin, patch, or button, which may be worn to subtly indicate its wearer has partial blindness, also known as low vision. In addition, the CE creates a unique opportunity for open dialogue to build awareness on low vision and what the symbol represents.

Personally, I can attest to the sense of empowerment I gained when using the CE. Since I had no control over the loss of my vision at least I could control who I chose to make aware of my situation. And even though I do need to use the white cane now I still wear my pin to increase its visibility.

Libby who has Stargardt disease, the most common form of inherited juvenile macular degeneration, is a motivational speaker, writer, and entertainer (you really should hear her sing). I had the chance to host Libby as my guest when she came to Pittsburgh to attend the Foundation Fighting Blindness’ Pittsburgh VisionWalk back in 2011.

Music gives me a great feeling of oneness. I like to take in the sense that we are all in it together; the musicians are obviously in on the cooperation, but the crowd has lots to do with it too. I’m so glad my eyesight doesn’t hinder that. In fact it probably augments it. Since I can’t see people’s facial expressions I project my own ideas of what their movements and body language are saying. ~Libby

Upon meeting her at the airport I was immediately struck by Libby’s energy and enthusiasm. The weekend was a flurry of activities that included a stop at Pittsburgh Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services for a tour of the low vision facility and an opportunity for Libby to talk about the CEP.

To each eating establishment we went during Libby’s 2-day stay she would ask the host/hostess if they had large print menus and this opened the door for further discussion about the CEP. It was refreshing to see someone actively self-advocating while at the same time bringing attention to an issue impacting many people across the U.S. and worldwide.

In October of 2013, Libby was invited by the California Council of the Blind (CCB) in San Diego, California to attend their annual state convention. Not one to pass up an opportunity to spread the word on the CEP Libby packed her bags and traveled to the CCB’s convention. She wrote a very insightful blog on the trip which you can peruse at your leisure by clicking HERE.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the CE is not a mobility or safety device, rather it is a tool for face-to-face interaction only and its use is a matter of personal choice which gives the wearer the option of determining with whom to share their vision loss. If you or someone you know would be interested in learning more about the CEP Libby can be contacted directly by email at info@checkeredeye.com or you can visit her website at www.checkeredeye.com.

If you have any questions or would like additional information from me please leave a comment below or email me at smccoy@boldblindbeauty.com.

I think the following quote accurately sums up today’s bold blind beauty. Libby, I want to thank you for being you and in so doing being a positive role model and a ray of hope for people impacted by vision loss.

“We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.” ~Frank Tibolt