WHAT TO DO AND WHAT TO AVOID WHEN HELPING A BLIND PERSON
What is meant by blind, legally blind, or visually impaired? Each is a term that refers to amount of residual vision. Blind means very little or no functional vision. Legally blind refers to remaining vision of 10% or less (20/200 acuity) or having a-restricted field (tunnel vision). Visually impaired generally means having less than 20/40 vision but more than 20/200 (between 80% and 10% of remaining vision).
What should you do when you see a blind person? What should you avoid doing?
If you see a blind person who seems to need help, offer your assistance. Identify yourself and ask how you can help.
Speak TO a blind person, NOT ABOUT him or her.
Speak directly to a blind person rather than having your words interpreted by a third party. Blindness is a visual disability, not a hearing loss nor a
language impairment. Generally, people who are blind can hear fine and speak for themselves. Besides, they know their needs better than anyone else.
Go ahead and use words "see" and "look."
They are a normal part of everyday language and you can't avoid using them any more than a blind person can. There just aren't any reasonable substitutes.
When you approach a blind person, indicate your presence by speaking, "Hi, can I be of assistance?"
When you're leaving, after speaking with the person, announce that
you are doing so. Don't leave the blind person stranded or standing there talking to empty space.
A blind person can walk from one location to another (cross the street, go to a room, or enter a restaurant) without being pushed or pulled.
If your offer of assistance is accepted, the blind person should take your elbow and follow the motion of your body.
Try to give verbal information while guiding a blind person ("three steps up," "narrow doorway," "turning right," etc.). When giving verbal directions,
please be specific and accurate. ("The elevators are at the carpeted area just across from the restaurant." or "To reach the meeting rooms, turn left at the right end of the hotel's registration desk and go to the stairs, directly in front of you," or "take the ramp, a little to the left of the stairs.")
You may also wish to refer to a clock's face when giving orientation. Indicate position of an object or location by giving its hour relationship to the blind person ("The desk is 3:00 to the way you are facing." or "The meat is 6:00 on your plate.")
CANES AND DOG GUIDES
Many people who are blind use canes to avoid obstacles (posts, furniture, or other people) or to locate a desired goal (stairs, carpeted areas, or furniture.)
When guiding a blind person, do not grab their cane.
Many others depend on dog guides to avoid obstacles and reach their desired destination. The dogs work by following commands, (left, right, forward, etc.)
stopping at steps, and going around people and other objects.
As tempting as it may be to pet a dog guide, remember that this dog is working when it is wearing a harness and is responsible for safely leading its owner
who cannot see.
The dog should never be distracted from its duty by touching or talking to it when it is working.
If guidance is necessary, either offer your elbow or give verbal directions.
Remember, when you do meet a blind person, common sense and sensitivity to others are most important. Just remember to ask if you can be of assistance and how you can best help.