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Sighted Guide Techniques
PDF Version of Sighted Guide
(PDF, 102 KB)
includes illustrations not shown here
Do's and Don'ts When Interacting
with a Blind Person
I. Basic Sighted Guide Position and Alignment
The sighted guide gives verbal cue ("take my arm/wrist")
and/or nonverbal cue (touching the back of the person who is blind's
hand with the back of the guide's hand).
The person who is blind should stand next to and slightly behind
sighted guide, facing in the same direction as the guide. Therefore,
the person who is blind is always at least a half step behind the
The person who is blind's upper arm remains close to his or her
body, with forearm and upper arm making a right angle at the elbow,
with the forearm, wrist and fingertips aiming directly forward.
The wrist is neither flexed nor hyper-extended, and the forearm
neither angles toward the midline of the body nor away from the body,
but aims straight ahead.
The person who is blind grasps the guide's arm or wrist with the
fingers toward the inside and the thumb toward the outside of the
The guide's arm is grasped at a location such that the person who is
blind's upper arm and forearm form a right angle. The height
difference determines this.
A preschooler may grip an adult's wrist, whereas a tall person who is
blind may need to grip a short guide's arm just under the armpit. The
right angle allows for movement up or down for steps or curbs, etc.
The person who is blind's shoulder is directly behind guide's
opposite shoulder, so that the pair are approximately one and one-half
persons wide, except when traversing narrow passageways in which only
one person can safely pass at a time.
The person who is blind should be responsible for maintaining
orientations as well as the proper grip and alignment with the guide,
but if he or she in incapable of doing so, the sighted guide is
responsible for monitoring this.
The person who is blind's non-grip hand can be used to confirm proper
alignment by touching the guide's shoulders and aligning him/herself
The person who is blind can also assist with doors when appropriate,
and the guide is responsible for the decision to transfer sides as
needed to traverse doorways based upon the capabilities of the person
who is blind.
The sighted guide is responsible for the safety of the person who is
blind at all times, regardless of the errors on the person who is
blind's part. The guide must be especially careful to monitor
obstacles at various levels from head to toe.
These obstacles not only include furniture, fixtures and people, but
also overhanging head-high obstacles as well as slight irregularities
in the walking surface, such as carpets, doorway moldings and changes
of texture in the walking surface.
If the person who is blind trips, it is the guide's responsibility to
support the person who is blind. The guide should choose or adjust
walking pace to accommodate the needs of the person who is blind.
II. Reversing Directions or Transferring Sides
(Note: either party can initiate a change of direction or a change of
sides, after notifying the other of the need to do so.)
Reversing directions: The pair comes to a complete stop, the person
who is blind releases grip, and the pair turn toward each other while
executing a 180 degree turn. The guide then reestablishes contact and
the pair resume proper position and grip, traveling in the opposite
Transferring sides: There are two methods of transferring sides;
based upon the ability and preference of the person who is blind.
The most stable method is the grip method, done after the pair
comes to a dead stop.
The person who is blind places the back of his/her free hand just
above his/her grip on the guide's arm and moves the original grip
hand across the guide's back to the guide's other arm as he/she
sidesteps into the new position on the guide's other side, resuming
grip with the appropriate hand.
The slide method of transfer can be done while stopped or while
traveling, depending upon the abilities of the pair. The back of the
person who is blind's free hand contacts the guide' s arm just above
the original grip hand, with the fingertips pointing toward the
guide's opposite arm.
The person who is blind then releases the original grip and turns 90
degrees toward the guide' s opposite arm, trailing across the
guide's back until the guide's opposite arm is gripped and the new
alignment is achieved.
Since trailing is less secure than a firm grip, and since this
method required a change of direction, it is not recommended for
lower functioning or physically unstable individuals.
III. Narrow Passageways
The guide gives a nonverbal cue for the person who is blind to get
directly behind the guide by moving the guiding arm back, placing the
wrist in the small of the guide's back.
The person who is blind slides his/her hand down to the guide's
wrist, stepping diagonally backward to walk directly behind the guide.
The person who is blind extends his or her arm in order to avoid
stepping on the guide's heels, walking one full step directly behind
the guide. The non-grip hand can be used to confirm proper single-file
When the person who is blind is much taller or has a much longer
stride than the guide, the guide may wish to extend his/her guiding
arm backward from the small of the back. Although uncomfortable, it
allows more room for the person who is blind's greater stride.
The guide may choose to reduce the pace and shorten stride slightly
while going through the narrow space, then resume arm position, pace
and stride after passing through the narrow space.
The guide gives the narrow passageway signal, always going through
the door first. The guide's movements to open the door can sometimes
be interpreted by the person who is blind as to whether the door is a
push or pull door, as well as to which side the door opens.
When approaching a pull door, the guide must stop farther back than
he/she normally would, reach forward and pull the door back without
stepping backward into the person he/she is guiding.
With both push and pull doors opening to the person who is blind's
side, the person who is blind should anticipate contacting the door by
putting his or her arm into a modified hand and forearm position.
If the person who is blind does not do so, the guide must be
responsible for assisting as necessary, while maintaining proper
alignment through the doorway so that the person who is blind
maintains the proper alignment through the doorway.
The person who is blind is responsible for holding the door, which
opens to his or her side. The sighted guide is responsible for seeing
that the person who is blind is on the side away from the door opening
if the person who is blind cannot hold the door.
The guide is also responsible for holding the door or monitoring in
such a way as to avoid injury to either party. The person who is
blind's hand should never slide on the door while it is opening or
closing, nor should the door be contacted on the edge, but as close to
the middle as possible.
In an unfamiliar area, the guide should indicate the presence of a
level change, particularly novel types of stairs (deep, narrow,
With both ascending and descending curbs or stairs, the guide must
take care to approach the stairs perpendicularly. In this way, the
person who is blind is aligned so as to take the next step either up
or down as the guide's movements indicate.
The guide brings the person who is blind alongside to the edge of
the steps so that neither person's toes extend over the edge of a
descending step or under the extended edge of an ascending step.
When a railing is available, it is best to have the person who is
blind take the railing before the guide takes the first step, unless
he/she requests otherwise.
The guide takes the first step up or down in front of the person who
is blind. The person who is blind waits until the guide has taken the
first step, and both people work together to stay in step, with the
person who is blind one step behind the guide at all times.
The guide is responsible for monitoring and making adjustments so
that when the guide is at the top or bottom, he or she pauses to
indicate this while the person who is blind takes the last step.
The guide's arm then moves directly forward (rather than up or down
and forward) to indicate the level surface.
Place the person who is blind's hand on the back of the chair and/or
guide the person to the chair so that his or her knees or shins gently
contact the edge of the seat.
Tell the person that they are facing the front, back or side of the
chair. For table/chair combinations or with stools or other unusual
seating, explain the situation first, and then place the person's hand
In an auditorium or with similar narrow seating, the guide first
explains the situation, then enters the aisle by side-stepping
side-by-side with the person who is blind, maintaining contact with
the person who is blind by touching the backs of each other's hands
until they have located their respective seats.
* Allow the person who is blind to seat him/herself
VII. Other Important Tips to Remember
Be considerate of the person who is blind's need to know where
he/she is, who and where you are, and who else is present. Encourage
others to introduce themselves so that the person who is blind can
locate them and connect names with voices.
Never leave that person unless you first inform them. Make certain
that he/she knows where you are going and when you will return, etc.
If he or she is not sitting, it is helpful for them to have something
substantial to touch (chair, table or wall) in order to maintain his
or her orientation.
Last Revised: August 17, 2010