A photo of a young man standing in an office holding a white cane.

Some people may feel uneasy when thinking about assisting a person who is blind or visually impaired.

Listed below are some helpful suggestions:

  • Identify yourself.
  • Speak in a normal and comfortable tone. Do not shout. Most persons who are blind can hear well.
  • Look at and speak directly to the person, not to a third party.
  • Remember that nods, shrugs and gestures may not be noticed as clues to what you are conveying.
  • Do not avoid words like blind, look, or see. These words are part of everyday conversation.
  • Feel free to discuss and attend movies or sporting events with persons who are blind or visually impaired. They enjoy common activities as much as anyone.
  • Remember that persons who are blind choose the areas of their lives in which to remain independent and the areas in which they welcome assistance.

A photo of the correct sighted guide technique.

WHEN YOU GUIDE A PERSON WHO IS BLIND

The Sighted Guide Technique is popularly accepted as the safest, most efficient way for a person with a visual impairment to walk with a sighted person.

  • Identify yourself and ask if assistance is needed.
  • Let the person take your arm just above your elbow with the thumb on one side and fingers on the other pointing straight ahead. You can guide with either the right or the left arm, which can either hang straight at your side or bend at the elbow.
  • The person follows a half step behind you at a pace which is comfortable for both of you.
  • To sit, bring the person into contact with the chair. Describe which way the chair faces.
  • Say right and left when giving directions based on the way the person is facing.
  • Identify steps, curbs, or other obstacles.
  • Inform the person if you need to leave. Put the person in contact with an object such as a wall or piece of furniture.
  • Do not pet, feed or distract a dog guide from doing its job.

INFORMATION ABOUT BLINDNESS

The term blind does not necessarily mean complete loss of sight, but could also describe varying degrees of functional vision. Over 90% of individuals who are blind have some remaining vision which can be used for a variety of tasks such as reading or travel. With the use of adaptive techniques, other sensory information or special equipment, most persons who are blind or visually impaired can remain independent.

The incidence of blindness is increasing primarily because people are living longer. Major causes of visual impairment are macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and, to a lesser degree, cataracts.

Extend the same courtesies and respect to persons who are blind or visually impaired that you would to anyone you meet.