When You Meet a Person Who Is Blind
- Treat me as you would anyone else. I do the same things as you do, but sometimes use different techniques.
- Speak in a normal tone of voice. Blindness doesn't equal hearing loss.
- Talk directly to me, not to my companion. Loss of sight is not loss of intellect.
- When entering a room, identify yourself; when exiting, be sure to mention that you are leaving. Address me by name so I will know you are speaking to me.
- If you leave me alone in an unfamiliar area, consider offering me an orientation clue, such as: 'The door is to your left.'
- Don't worry about using common, everyday words and phrases like "look," "see" or "watching TV" around me.
- If I look as though I may need assistance, ask. I'll tell you if I do. If I am about to encounter a dangerous situation, voice your concerns in a calm and clear manner.
- Pulling or steering me is awkward and confusing—it's really not helpful. Avoid grabbing my arm, and please don't touch my dog's harness.
- Ask, "Would you like me to guide you?" Offering your elbow is an effective and dignified way to lead someone who is blind. Do not be afraid to identify yourself as an inexperienced sighted guide and ask for tips on how to improve. Using audible cues, such as a tap or pat on an object (such as a chair or doorway), is a good technique for showing me their location. Commenting, 'Here's the chair,' while tapping on it helps me to quickly locate it.
- Be considerate. If you notice a spot or stain on my clothing, tell me privately (just as you would like to be told).
- Be sure to give useful directions. Phrases such as "across the street" and "left at the next corner" are more helpful than vague descriptions like "over there."
- In a restaurant, give clear directions to available seats. Your offer to read the menu aloud may be appreciated, but you shouldn't assume I would not want to order my own food.
- Offer to let me know what is on the table: ketchup bottle, water glasses, salt and pepper shakers, etc. You can describe the location of items by using clock positions: "Your coffee is at 3 o'clock"; "The sugar is at 1 o'clock."
- Leave doors all the way open or all the way closed—half-open doors or cupboards are dangerous. And more often than not, moving chairs or other objects around – especially in a familiar environment – winds up being more confusing for me than helpful.
- Be sensitive when questioning me about my blindness. This is personal information and boundaries should be respected.