How to Understand Blind People

Blind people are often misunderstood and subject to stereotyping, just like any other members of minority groups. There are a lot of things that are assumed by ignorant people about blind and partially sighted people. No one can understand what it is truly like to be anyone else. The following steps provide some guidance on appropriate behaviour around blind or partially sighted people.


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    Remember that no one will ever be offended by being treated with respect and consideration. Treat them and their disability with respect. It's possible to see both the person and the disability.
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    Understand that some blind and partially sighted people watch television and go to see movies. They enjoy it just as anyone else does, they just can't see it the way a sighted person does. Not everyone has to see a story to enjoy it. People enjoy radio plays and audio books without seeing the story.
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    Understand that blind or partially sighted people don't get around by counting their footsteps. Some people may find it useful to know how many steps it takes to cross rooms in their own home, in the same way sighted people know how big their rooms are. No one can get around in the world just knowing how many steps it is between where they are and where they want to get to.
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    Avoid jumping to conclusions about a blind person based on whether they use a guide dog or not. There are many reasons why a person chooses to have a guide dog, and just as many reasons why they may choose not to. Some blind people feel they can manage without, some just don't like dogs, some have partners they can rely on, et cetera.
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    Don't make assumptions about how much some one can see based on what their eyes look like. Not all blind or partially sighted people have eyes that look any different from a sighted person's eyes. Some sighted people have unusual eyes, and may avoid eye contact (such as cases of social anxiety or autism). Some blind or partially sighted people may not be able to focus their eyes on the person they are talking to. Don't be offended if someone doesn't make eye contact with you unless you are sure they are avoiding eye contact deliberately. It's okay to ask them why they aren't looking you in the eye.
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    Use your normal tone and volume when speaking to a blind person. Most blind people are not deaf or hard of hearing, and they do not need to be spoken to like children. If they need you to speak more loudly, slowly, or clearly, they will let you know.
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    Understand that being blind doesn't always mean that one can't see anything at all. Very few people are totally blind. Blind is a term used for people who cannot see at all or who have very very restricted sight. Partially sighted people are not always registered blind, but may have such poor vision that they require visual aids such as a white cane or a guide dog.
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    Offer help, without pushing. It's perfectly fine to offer help crossing a street, finding a building, or navigating obstacles. Ask the blind person if they would like help. If not, don't impose your help on them.
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    Understand that a white cane should be treated as a part of the blind or partially sighted person's body. Be respectful and never jump over a cane or push one out of your path any more than you would step over a someone walking slower than you or push someone out of your way.
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    Understand that a guide dog in harness is working. Never distract a guide dog by petting it or feeding it.


  • Do not be nervous about using words like "see", "look" or "watch" when talking to blind people. Those words are used all the time by blind people.
  • Do not pet the blind person's dog or grab their cane. That is like going up to someone and grabbing on to their glasses.
  • To get a blind person's attention, say their name or gently tap them on the shoulder. Try to avoid sneaking up on them, because this can startle them.

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Categories: Blind and Visually Impaired | Conversation Skills