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Do's and Don'ts When Interacting with a Person who is Blind

Sighted Guide Techniques

When speaking with a person who is Blind:  

  • DO identify yourself, especially when entering a room. Don't say, "do you know who this is?" 

  • DO speak directly to the individual. Do not speak through a companion. Unless they are hard of hearing, they can speak for themselves.

  • DO give specific directions like "the desk is five feet to your right" as opposed to saying "the desk is over there."

  • DO give a clear word picture when describing things to an individual with sight loss. Include details such as color, texture, shape and landmarks. 

  • DO touch them on the arm or use their name when addressing them. This lets them know you are speaking to them, and not someone else in the room.

  • DON'T shout when you speak, they can't see but often have fine hearing.

  • DON'T be afraid to use words like "blind" or "see." Their eyes may not work but it is still "nice to see you."

If you see a Blind person who seems to be in need of assistance:

  • DO introduce yourself and ask the person if he needs assistance.

  • DO provide assistance if it is requested.

  • DO respect the wishes of the person who is blind.

  • DON'T insist upon trying to help if your offer of assistance is declined.

If a Blind person asks you for directions:

  • DO use words such as "straight ahead," "turn left," "on your right."

  • DON'T point and say "go that way" or "it's over there."

If you are asked to guide a Blind person:

  • DO allow the person you are guiding to hold your arm and follow as you walk.

  • DO move your guiding arm behind your back when approaching a narrow space so the person you are guiding can step behind you and follow single-file.

  • DO hesitate briefly at a curb or at the beginning of a flight of stairs.

  • DO tell the person you are guiding whether the steps go up or down.

  • DO allow the person you are guiding to find the handrail and locate the edge of the first step before proceeding.

  • DON'T grab the person you are guiding by the hand, arm, or shoulder and try to steer him.

  • DON'T grab the person's cane or the handle of a dog guide's harness.

General guidelines:

  • DON'T pet, feed or distract a Guide Dog. They are not pets, they are working companions on whom they depend.

  • DO treat Blind people as individuals. People with visual disabilities come in all shapes, sizes and colors. They each have their own strong points and weaknesses, just like everyone else.

Last Revised: August 17, 2010