10 Common Courtesies To Offer People Who Are Blind

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Many people have never interacted with someone with blindness or a visual disability. (Or they weren’t aware that they did!) Television and movies rarely portrays people with disabilities accurately, leading to many misconceptions. If you’re someone who hasn’t spent much time with people who are blind, take note. It doesn’t require special skills or knowledge to interact with a blind person. Use these common courtesies and remember that you’re interacting with a whole person, not their disability. Show them the respect they deserve.

Image of Lou Fioritto (Founder & Co-Owner of Braille Works) walking with his grandson during a company picnic.

Lou Fioritto (Founder & Co-Owner of Braille Works) walking with his grandson during a company picnic.

 

1. Offer help. If you see a blind person who seems to need help, offer your services. Speak directly to them, not through a third party, and let them know you are addressing them. If your help is refused, don’t be offended.

2. Assist, don’t push. Pushing isn’t polite. If you assist an individual with blindness, offer your arm. Taking your arm will allow them to follow the motions of your body.

3. Don’t leave them stranded. When you’re leaving a person who is blind, say so. Make sure they have either reached their destination or are comfortable navigating their surroundings.

4. Give directionals. Always give directions to a blind person according to the way they are facing and/or preface directions. Don’t point, and if you must use specific street or landmark names, check to be sure they are familiar with the area first.

5. Don’t change your vocabulary. Go ahead and use words like “look” and “see” when conversing with a person who is blind. Words like these are as much a part of their vocabulary as yours because there just aren’t any reasonable substitutes.

A golden retriever service dog laying on a shaded patch of grass.

If you see a dog wearing a vest like this, please be aware he or she is on duty. (photo source: bizrate.com)

6. Please don’t pet the pooch. As tempting as it may be to pet a service dog, remember that this dog is working at a very important job. Guide dogs are responsible for leading a master who cannot see. The dog should never be distracted from that duty.

7. Tell them what’s for dinner. When serving or eating with a person who is blind, tell him or her what is being served. Explain the position of each item on the plate by relating its position to the numbers on the face of a clock.

8. Leave things where they are. When you’re in a blind person’s home or office, don’t move objects around. Even if you think you’re helping or “tidying up,” your actions may cause the person to search for the items you moved.

9. No sight, no limits. Most people who are blind will gladly discuss blindness if you wish, but remember that it’s an old story to them. They have just as many interests as you do. Don’t make the assumption that their blindness rules their life.

10. Emojis aren’t accessible. If you’re communicating with a person with blindness through social media or email, remember that emojis may have to be translated by a screen reader. Keep them to a minimum.

Finally, when meeting a person who is blind, remember that common sense and sensitivity to the individual are most important of all. There are many more courtesies we should afford to people who are blind but I wanted to stop with ten and give you; the readers, the opportunity to contribute. What are some common courtesies you think we should exhibit when spending time with individuals who are blind?

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This post was written by Jeff Frcho

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