12 Tips on How to Interact with a Blind Person

Fou Che, a blind woman smiling
Photo of Fou Che from her Facebook account

This post is mainly for sighted people who don’t know how to approach or guide a blind person. You should remember the most important advice from the list, you should ask first the blind if he or she needs help before doing anything.

  1. I’m an ordinary person, just blind. You don’t need to raise your voice or address me as if I were a child. Don’t ask my companion what I want, just ask me directly. Always remember that I just cannot see but I can hear clearly. Talk to me so that we will understand each other better.
  2. If I am walking with you, don’t grab my arms, let me take yours. I’ll keep a half step behind to anticipate curbs and steps. Don’t be overcautious and make a full stop at every step. Walk normally and your body movement will tell me what to do.
  3. When you see me walking alone down the hall, don’t hesitate to offer assistance. Just tap slightly on the shoulder and say, excuse me or hello to call my attention. Don’t whisper behind my back. Remember, I cannot see you but I can hear and feel you. I’m not some alien from outer space to be laughed at or frightened about.
  4. I want to know who’s in the room with me, speak when you enter. It is helpful to mention your name or say hello each time we meet, especially for new acquaintances, so that the sound of your voice will be familiar and recognizable to me. Introduce me to the others including children, and tell me if there’s a cat or a dog. Guide my hand to a chair by letting me touch the backrest.
  5. The door to a room, cabinet or a car left partially open is a hazard to me. Make a habit to leave doors or rooms or cabinet drawers fully opened or closed. I also need a sense of permanence in the room or in the drawer. Classroom fixtures must have their designated places so that I can memorize the place. Don’t leave chairs or bags in the middle of the room because I might trip over it.
  6. At meal times, I will not have trouble with ordinary table skills. Use the clock method when describing to me the food on my plate or the position of my glass of water or cup of coffee. For example, 12:00 to tell that my viant is at the uppermost center of my plate. 11:00 if my glass of water is at the upper left side, etc.
  7. Don’t avoid words like see, I use it too. I’m always glad to see you.
  8. I don’t want pity, but don’t talk about the wonderful compensations of blindness. My sense of smell, touch or hearing did not improve when I became blind. I rely on them more and, therefore, may get more information through those senses than you do. That’s all!
  9. If I’m your house guest, show me the bathroom, closet, dresser, windows and the light switch too. I like to know whether the lights are on.
  10. I’ll discuss blindness with you if you are curious, but it’s an old story to me. I have as many interests as you do.
    However, don’t be afraid to ask questions. We blind people are more than willing to explain to you all the things you want to know about blindness. It’s better to clarify things you don’t understand than make hasty assumption. Remember, questions don’t hurt, ignorance does.
  11. Please make me a part of your world. I also enjoy the same things you do. Parties, movies, school competitions. Let me participate in any of your activities, and you’ll be surprised that I can be as fun as the person next to you.
  12. Don’t think of me as just a blind person. I’m just a person who happens to be blind.

There you have it. Next time you happen to encounter a blind person who you think requires sighted assistance, don’t just jump right in and touch him or her. It will be better if you speak first; introduce yourself (optional) before you offer any help. Some blind people might misinterpret the action as danger and react accordingly.

Source: Facebook
Image source: Fou Che’s Facebook account

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