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Interacting With Individuals Who Are Blind

Interacting with Someone Who is Blind or Visually Impaired

  • Speak directly to the person - not to his or her companion.
  • Always offer to shake hands when greeting.
  • Introduce yourself and anyone else who is with you when meeting.
  • When entering or leaving a room, identify yourself and be sure to mention when you are leaving.
  • Address the person by name so that he or she will know you are speaking to them.
  • When offering guided assistance, wait for acceptance and instructions before you begin.
  • Treat adults as adults.
  • Consider a wheelchair, white cane, or other adaptive equipment as part of someone's personal space. Do not lean on or touch the equipment.
  • Never pet or distract dog guides.
  • Do not be embarrassed if you use common phrases that relate to a disability, such as, "It is nice to see you again." Do not worry about using common words and phrases, such as, "look," "see," or "watching."
  • Describe the surroundings and the area around you.
  • Speak in a normal tone of voice. Shouting will not improve a person's vision.
  • If you leave someone alone in an unfamiliar area, make sure that it is near something that he or she can touch - a wall, table, or railing - an empty space can be very uncomfortable.
  • Be sure to give useful directions. Phrases, such as, "across the street" and "right at the next corner" are more helpful than vague descriptions. It is also a good idea to use clock clues when providing directions, for example, the bathroom door is at one o'clock.
  • In a restaurant, give clear and specific directions to available seats. You may want to offer to read the menu aloud, but do not assume that someone would want you to order his or her food.
  • When food arrives, offer to describe the location of food by using clock positions (examples, iced tea is at three o'clock, and sugar is at one o'clock).
  • Leave doors completely open or completely closed. Leaving doors or cupboards half-open is not safe.
  • If you rearrange furniture or personal belongings, announce where furniture and items have been placed.
  • Be sensitive when questioning people about their blindness or visual impairment. This information is personal and should be respected.
  • Use "people-first language." For example, describe your friend as someone who is blind or visually impaired and not as your blind friend.