Getting Along & Getting Around
Tips for helping the blind & partially sighted
Most sighted people get the wrong idea on what is proper assistance for the blind and partially sighted. Most times sighted persons usually do the wrong thing (i.e. sighted person grabbing a blind personís arm while he/she is walking with either a guide dog or cane.). This can lead to either putting one or both persons in danger or making a situation uncomfortable. Gladys E. Loebís Getting Along and Getting Around (from the handbook What...Where...When) tackles this topic and gives suggestions on what a sighted person should do if they come upon a person who is either blind or partially sighted.
Giving Directions or Instructions
- Identify yourself when you first meet a blind person. Since there can be no eye contact, a nice gesture is to touch or shake the person's hand.
- Speak distinctly, but no more loudly then necessary, and direct your voice to the blind person when addressing him.
- Excuse yourself when you leave a blind person or a group that includes a blind person so that he will know you are leaving.
- Communicate--If you are guiding a blind person and aren't familiar with the individual or with blindness at all, ask the person how much assistance he needs. If you are the blind person, let your companion know how much assistance you like. People tend to be overly cautious until they are more familiar with your needs. You know what your requirements are and what you can do for yourself. It is important not to be embarrassed about accepting information even in such situations as the location of the facilities in a rest room.
- Don't point. Provide descriptive reference points that the blind understand such as, "one block," etc. Do not give landmarks.
- Don't say "here" or "right there." For example, at the table you might say that the glass of water is at "one o'clock" in reference to the dinner plate as a clock, or in the kitchen "left of the sink."
- Another way is to tap the object sought and say "It's here." or to say, "Let me take your hand." and then place the person's hand on the object.
- Ask the blind person to take your arm--Always lead.
- Walk about a half pace ahead, and announce when you approach a curb, escalator, or steps, and/or hesitate at the first step.
- Tell the blind person the location of the hand rails.
- Explain unusual conditions and hazard.
- In narrow passageways, have the blind person follow you with his hand on your shoulder or touching your back.
- In seating a blind person, one method is to place his hand on the back of the chair in order for him to determine the location of the seat, and let him take it from there. Never leave a blind person standing in the open without some object to touch for security.
- When entering an automobile, give the direction the car is leading, place one hand of the blind person on the door handle and the other on the top of the car. If the door is open, place one hand on the edge of the door and the other on the top. Most blind persons will take it from there.
- When it is time to close the car door, have an understanding with the blind person, which one of you will do it.
- When a blind person is ready to exit a vehicle, advise him if it is safe to do so: for example, he should know that it is clear of any obstacle such as moving vehicle, pedestrian, etc.
- On an extensive trip provide the blind person (particularly a child) with some form of games or other diversion.
- In a restaurant, first ask if braille menus are available: if not, read the menu and the prices to the blind person. As the food is served, call his attention to it, giving the clock location of his water, side dishes, etc.
- In a place where there is a public address system, tell the blind person the direction of the stage or person speaking so that he can face in the proper direction.
- At church or other services, inform the blind person by giving some signal at the appropriate time to sit, stand, or kneel.
- If you are blind and must enter an elevator without a sighted companion, inspect the elevator for tactile symbols, the emergency stop symbol, buttons for opening and closing doors and indicating floors, and the telephone for use in an emergency. A bell symbol, similar to the shape of a telephone, identifies the emergency bell.
Getting Along & Getting Around
Loeb, Gladys E.
Gladys E. Loeb Foundation Inc.