Facts About Blindness

Blindness Etiquette

Quick tips, Do's & Don'ts and How to Help

Tips for Interacting with a person who is blind

When speaking with someone who is blind…

  • DO identify yourself, especially when entering a room. Don’t say, “do you know who this is?”
  • DO speak directly to the individual. Do not speak through a companion.
  • DO give specific directions like “the desk is five feet to your right” as opposed to saying “the desk is over there.”
  • DO give a clear word picture when describing things to an individual with sight loss. Include details such as color, texture, shape and landmarks.
  • DO use their name when addressing them. This lets them know you are speaking to them, and not someone else in the room.
  • DON’T shout when you speak unless you are asked to speak loudly. Most people who have vision loss hear within standard ranges.
  • DON’T be afraid to use words like “blind”, “look”, “watch” or “see.” There are often social connotations to these words that are applicable to all individuals regardless of visual acuity.

If you see a blind person who seems to be in need of assistance:
  • DO introduce yourself and ask the person if assistance is needed.
  • DO provide assistance if it is requested and you are comfortable / able to do so.
  • DO offer to find another individual if you are unable or uncomfortable with assisting in the manner that a person has requested.
  • DO respect the wishes of the person who is blind. DON’T insist upon trying to help if your offer of assistance is declined.

How to Help

If you believe assistance is needed, it is always important to ask. Never assume that help is required, unless you have confirmed with an individual or they have requested assistance. It is always okay to ask if someone would like assistance, but be prepared that sometimes they may politely decline.

One way to assist a person who is blind is through human guide. Human guide is when one individual offers to guide a person without vision from one point to another. If you are asked, or volunteer, to offer human guide consider the following tips:  

  • DO allow the person you are guiding to hold your arm and follow as you walk
  • DO move your guiding arm behind your back when approaching a narrow space so the person you are guiding can step behind you and follow single-file.
  • DO hesitate briefly at a curb or at the beginning of a flight of stairs and tell them why you are doing so.
  • DO tell the person you are guiding whether the steps go up or down. DO allow the person you are guiding to find the handrail and locate the edge of the first step before proceeding.
  • DON’T grab the person you are guiding by the hand, arm, or shoulder and try to steer him.
  • DON’T grab the person’s cane or the handle of a dog guide’s harness

When you encounter a working Guide Dog team

Encountering a Guide Dog while someone is out and about may be a really exciting thing, particularly if Guide Dogs are not commonly seen working in your area. While this may be something that you are enthusiastic about, there are a few tips to remember to make sure the dog is able to do their job of keeping their handler safe:

  • DO NOT pet, feed, talk to or distract a Guide Dog. They are not pets, they are working companions on whom a person who is blind depends on to guide them SAFELY.
  • DO NOT allow your dog, on or off leash, to interact with a Guide Dog. In addition to jeopardizing the handler’s safety, it can also create a risk for the dogs as well.
  • DO speak directly to the person who is blind. This includes giving directions or general conversation. Providing directions to the dog will not help the team to get where they are going.
  • DO ask questions, but also know that sometimes a person with a Guide Dog has a fixed schedule or agenda and may not always be available to chat.
  • DO announce if you are holding open doors as this can be confusing for the person who is blind as well as their Guide Dog if this is not clearly known.
  • DO educate others you are with about the importance of respecting the boundaries of a working service animal.

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