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 Many people are uneasy when thinking about assisting a visually impaired person.  The following suggestions will help you feel at ease with blind persons, and are based on thoughtful courtesies you might extend to anyone, sighted or blind.

  1. Always ask if the person wishes assistance.  If help is needed, they’ll be grateful.  If not, they will thank you for asking. Never force your help on anyone.
  2. Speaking upon entering a room where there is a blind person is very helpful.  Identify yourself and let them know when you’re leaving. DON’T exit without informing them and leave them talking to thin air.  So embarrassing!
"Oh! She's gone, isn't she?"
Linda? Linda? “Oh! She’s gone, isn’t she?”
  1. When greeting a blind person if others are present, use a name or provide some cue so the blind person can tell for whom your greeting is intended.  Remember that blind people can’t see when you’re looking at them.
  2. Address a blind person directly, not through someone else, and use a normal tone of voice.
  1. When giving directions to a blind person, be specific.  Pointing will not help, nor will “over there.”
    However, phrases such as “do you see what I mean” or “let’s look at the numbers” are a normal part of everyday conversation, so you needn’t censor your conversation.

Accessibility-cartoon     6. Remember that nods and shrugs do not take the place of words. If the blind person chooses to accept assistance with moving through an environment, it will be easiest for him or her to hold onto your arm just above the elbow when walking. This will position you about ½ step ahead, and the individual can easily follow your movements.

7.  Pause briefly before ascending or descending steps and inform the individual as to whether they are going up or down.

8. When providing assistance to cross the street, stay with the person until the opposite curb has been safely reached.

  1. Avoid the temptation to pet a dog guide.  The dog is a working animal responsible for leading a person who cannot see and should not be distracted or treated like a pet
  1. When you dine with a blind person it can be helpful to describe the table setting.  The location of food servings can be described as numerals on a clock face, I.E. “your mashed potatoes are at 7 o’clock.”
  2. If you have a money transaction, identify the denomination of the bills so that he or she may fold them according to the individual’s own method for identification.
  1. The most important things needed when you meet blind individuals are your good will and common sense. Remember that blind people think, feel and make decisions just as you do.  A blind person is an individual who has usually lost only one sense-the sense of sight.  Be natural and enjoy one another.





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Amy Bovaird is the author of two best-selling books Mobility Matters and Cane Confessions: The Lighter Side to Mobility.  An accomplished and inspirational speaker, she talks on a variety of topics based on her life experiences and continues to educate and inspire others through her writing and speaking. She lives with a dual disability—progressive vision and hearing loss due to Usher Syndrome. She blogs about the challenges she faces as she loses more vision and hearing and manages to find humor around almost every corner, AmyBovaird.com. Her books are available at Amazon. Follow her on social media at Amy Bovaird, Author.
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4 thoughts on “

  • June 20, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    Good information, Amy. I often feel like my brain is working in overdrive from individuals not addressing me by name when several are around. I find it also helpful when people place my hand on the car door handle or the back of a chair at a table. Thanks for educating others.
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  • June 20, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    Hi Jena,
    It’s so hard to keep things straight when you don’t know if they’re speaking to you or not. Excellent points about placing your hands on the car door and back of the chair or table.
    Thanks so much for your comment.

  • June 23, 2015 at 1:08 am

    That’s right.When someone doesn’t identify the speakers, it gets a little overwhelming trying to keep everyone straight – who is speaking and if you are required to make some response. The biggest thing for me, however, is when someone leaves without saying anything. Even temporarily. For example, when I go to the Chinese restaurant with my friend, she sometimes goes over to the buffet for seconds without saying. So I continue to chat and it’s only when I don’t get an answer that I realize I’ve been inadvertently left alone without realizing it. 🙂 I think even when you KNOW someone has a vision problem, when that person doesn’t appear to be vision-impaired, it’s EASY to forget.

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