How to Interact with the Blind

Interacting with a blind person may be a little daunting at first. But with an open mind and this article, you will realize that blind people are just like you and everyone!

Steps

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    Always treat blind people as just another person as they simply do things differently.
    • Many people assume that blind people have other medical conditions, this may be so but is not always the case. Unless you know for sure assume blindness is the only medical problem this person has.
    • Blind does not mean that they cannot do anything nor does it mean that they have lower-than-average-common sense. It is only a physical challenge.
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    Bear in mind that blind people treat their guide dogs and white canes as extensions of their bodies. Never distract guide dogs from their job or touch, move or grab a cane without the owner’s permission.
    • Imagine if someone moved your keys once you've established a location in which you can readily and quickly retrieve them. That’d slow you down. Plus, it’s personal property. The keys allow the sighted person to drive a car which is a mobility tool and the white cane allows the blind individual to travel effectively, independently and safely which also acts as a mobility tool.
    • Guide dogs are not super animals, they can be distracted by cooing, talking, whistling, food and other animals. Distracting a guide dog can cause a blind person to lose their life. It is the dogs responsibility to ensure the next step a blind person takes is safe, they can not do this if they are looking at you.
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    Identify yourself and others who may be with you when meeting someone who is blind. Ideally, instead of saying "This is John" (or whoever), have those who are with you introduce themselves, one at a time, to the blind person. When conversing in a group, remember to identify the person to whom you are speaking to if there may be doubt as to who the comment is directed to, i.e. using their name — otherwise, the blind person will be confused as to whether or not you are speaking to them. However, overusing names during as conversation can be annoying to everyone involved not only the blind person. Generally do not modify the way you speak. Most blind people can tell who are you are talking to by the direction you are facing acoustics of the room. In most cases, if there is confusion the blind person will ask for clarification.
    • Always inform the blind person verbally that you are leaving before your leaving from the place so that he or she will not be left talking to the air.
    • Never talk only to a third party who might be with them such as their spouse, driver, reader, teacher, tutor etc. Look at the blind person and speak as you would to anyone else.
    • Don't talk to then guide dog instead of the blind person, this is insulting and the dog never answers.
    • Do not shout; just speak in a normal tone of voice as usual. Many blind people have good to great hearing.
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    Remember that not all 'blind' people are 100% blind. Some legally blind people have limited vision, others can see some in different light levels such as dusk or cloudy light, and yet others may have pinhole vision or peripheral vision.
    • Never touch or grab a blind person in efforts to assist.
    • Never place an item in their pockets or grab an item of theirs in efforts to assist.
    • They may not be able to see but most are still physically able.
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    If you offer assistance, wait until the offer is accepted. Then listen or ask for instructions. Many blind people will accept help; however, make sure that they are aware that you are going to help them and offer your arm, not your whole body.
    • Do not clap, repeat or push when attempting to guide a blind person. This would be somewhat rude, imagine how you would feel if someone was guiding you with clapping and repeated directions. Be consistent and specific when you are describing things and giving directions. The more accuracy, the more consistency, the more direct and the more description you use, the more effective your interaction will be.
    • Do not assume that they can not do stuff for themselves. Many are able to serve themselves, find things, pick up things, and carry things etc. If in doubt simply ask if they would like assistance, and do not be insulted if they say 'No thank you'.
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    Relax. Don’t be embarrassed if you use common expressions such as “See you later” or “Did you watch the movie this weekend?”. Just as a person who uses a wheelchair still goes for a walk, a blind person will still be pleased — or not — to see you. In other words, blind people use the same expressions as those who are sighted.
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    Be careful with terminology. Some words such as 'handicapped' and "disabled' are seen as not politically correct. Not all blind people feel this way but some do, try to gauge the blind person's reactions and apologize if they seem upset by a word. Acceptable descriptive words would be 'Blind' 'Sight impaired' and 'Low vision (if the person has some vision).'

Tips

  • Make efforts to understand blindness and blind individuals through interaction and research.
  • Drop the negative/misleading attitudes/beliefs.
  • Don't assume that they can see you.
  • Spread the word.
  • Don't assume they have other medical conditions
  • Don't assume that they can not see you

Warnings

  • If you do not comply with the above guidelines, you could face legal or social repercussions, possibly concerning but not limited to:
    • Assault
    • Discrimination
    • Privacy
    • Property

Article Info

Categories: Blind and Visually Impaired | Conversation Skills