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Some suggestions:

  • Treat a person who is blind the same as you would anyone else. They do the same things as you do, but may use different techniques.
  • Speak in a normal tone of voice. Blindness doesn’t equal hearing loss.
  • Talk directly to a person who is blind, not to their 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 the person by name so they will know you are speaking to them.
  • If you leave a person who is blind alone in an unfamiliar area, make sure it is near something they can touch—a wall, table, rail, etc. Being left out in empty space can be very uncomfortable.
  • 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.”
  • Don’t worry about using common, everyday words and phrases like “look,” “see,” or “watching TV” around a person who is blind.
  • If a person looks as though they may need assistance, ask.
  • They will tell you if they do. If a person who is blind is about to encounter a dangerous situation, voice your concerns in a calm and clear manner.
  • Pulling or steering a person who is blind is awkward and confusing — it’s really not helpful. Avoid grabbing their arm, and please don’t touch or steer a guide 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.
  • Be considerate. If you notice a spot or stain on a person’s clothing, tell them privately (just as you would like to be told).
  • In a restaurant, give clear directions to available seats. Your offer to read the menu aloud may be appreciated, but you shouldn’t assume the person would not want to order their own food.
  • When the food arrives, ask if the person would like to know what is on their plate. You can describe the location of food 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. Don’t rearrange furniture or personal belongings without letting the person know.
  • Be sensitive when questioning someone about their blindness. This is personal information and boundaries should be respected.

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