blind or vision impaired

Blind or Vision Impaired
Communication Etiquette

A person’s visual acuity may change under different light conditions.  Do not confuse vision impairments or ‘legal blindness’ with total blindness.  Many people who are considered to be legally blind have residual (or remaining) sight.  In fact, many people who are legally blind walk without the use of a can or dog guide and can read printed text with some accommodations (such as large print or magnifier).

1.      Do not automatically guide someone without asking him or her first.  If they accept your assistance, offer the person the back of your arm or elbow and let the person follow the motion of your body.  Walk at a normal pace.  Guide their hand or arm to the back of a chair.  When guiding, slow before a step, barrier, or turn, and describe the reason for the slowing.  Avoid pointing or using abstract visual cues (i.e. over there, that one, up ahead, etc.)

2.      Speak directly to the individual who is blind or vision impaired.  Do not shout.  When you leave the room, say so.

3.      Introduce the other people in the room or have them introduce themselves.  This will assist the person in orienting themselves to the room and its occupants.  When conversing with a group of people, identify the person to whom you are speaking.  If a person who is blind or visually impaired does not respond, it may be because he or she thinks you are talking to someone else.

4.      Don’t avoid using words like “look” and “see.”  There are no reasonable substitutes.  For example: When giving directions, do not use references that a person cannot see; “over there” is not a good way of describing a location. When using directional words, use them with the orientation of the person who is blind.  Remember when you are facing someone, your left is that person’s right.

5.      Do not play with a dog guide while it is “on duty.”  It is up to the person using the dog guide to decide if play is appropriate, so be sure to ask before touching the animal.  You do not want to distract the animal from its job.

6.      When guiding a person into new or strange surrounding, describe special features or physical characteristics of the area.  When going into a room, describe where the furniture is, where the door is, and where the person is in relation to these objects.

7.      For people with vision impairments, provide a well-lit area for the interview, and avoid sharp contrasts of light and dark areas.  A person’s visual acuity may change under differing light conditions.

8.      When handing the individual written materials, be prepared to read the information to the person, or ask if the person would like a reader.  Offer assistance in filling out forms, however, most people with visual impairments can fill out forms and sign their names if the appropriate spaces are indicated to them.

9.      When speaking to a person with impaired vision, position yourself so that the sun or any other bright lights are in front of you.  Your face will be illuminated and, at the same time, glare or blinding light in eyes of the other person will be eliminated.

Try not to be disconcerted if an individual with an obvious vision impairment does not make eye contact, and still continue to talk directly to the person.