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When You Meet a Blind Person

  • Published: 2009-02-08 (Revised/Updated 2016-06-12) : Robin Kettle.
  • Synopsis: Tips on meeting a blind person including when to offer assistance and awareness hints for helping the blind.

Main Document

Quote: "Remember that blind and visually impaired people are individuals first. They do the same things as you, but sometimes use different techniques."

Every individual has a unique personality and therefore reacts in a unique way to blindness or visual impairment.

Visually impaired people, whether they are totally blind or have some degree of useful vision may, at times, require the assistance of a sighted guide. For the sake of simplicity, the term "blind person" is used in this booklet to refer to the person who is being guided, whether totally blind or partially sighted.

How do I make contact with a blind person

When approaching a blind person, initiate the greeting using a normal tone of voice. Identify yourself and then inquire if your assistance is desired. If so, touch your hand to the back of their hand as a signal or them to take your arm.

How do I help a blind person cross the street

Avoid pulling blind people by the hand or tugging at their sleeves. It is awkward and confusing. Simply offer your assistance and they will tell you the best way to guide them. Let them know when you are coming to a curb and whether you will be stepping up or down.

How can I help a blind person feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar setting

It is very helpful and important to describe the surroundings to blind or visually impaired people. For example, you can describe the layout of a room, whether it is square or narrow, how many tables and chairs there are and how they are arranged. The same principle applies when traveling with blind or visually impaired people. Describe the landscape, tell them which direction you are traveling (north, south, etc.), mention the names of towns you pass by. Just remember to give directions clearly and accurately. Pointing or using phrases such as "over there" will be of no assistance.

When you meet a blind or visually impaired person, the key word is "person", not "blind". Don't hesitate to use the words "see", "look" or "read". Remember that blind and visually impaired people are individuals first. They do the same things as you, but sometimes use different techniques.

What do I do if we come to a doorway

You should tell the blind person when they are approaching a door and in which direction the door opens. For example, the guide would say "the door opens to the left and towards us". In this case, the blind person would then free their left hand in order to hold the door and to close it, as may be required.

Once contact is made with the door, it is the blind person's responsibility to hold the door open until the doorway has been cleared and to close it as necessary.

Okay, what about stairs

How do I help a blind person take a seat

When approaching a chair from the front, bring the blind person in contact with the front of the chair so that the knees lightly touch the seat. Inform them what type of chair it is, e.g. arm chair, bench, rocker, etc.

Additional tips for guides

Reference: Robin is a DDA access auditor and equality trainer - www.access-auditing.com

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