Etiquette

Interacting with a Person Who Is Blind

 

When speaking with a person who is blind:

 

  • Identify yourself, especially when entering a room. Don't say, "Do you know who this is?"
  • Touch the individual 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. When exiting, be sure to mention that you are leaving.
  • Speak directly to the individual. Do not speak through a companion, they can speak for themselves.
  • Don’t shout when you speak, they can't see but often have fine hearing.
  • Give specific directions like, "the desk is five feet to your right" as opposed to saying, "the desk is over there."
  • Leave doors all the way open or all the way closed—half-open doors or cupboards are dangerous. And more often than not, moving chairs or other objects around – especially in a familiar environment – winds up being more confusing than helpful.
  • Be considerate. If you notice a spot or stain on someone’s clothing, tell them privately (just as you would like to be told).
  • Give a clear word picture when describing things to an individual with a visual impairment. Include details such as color, texture, shape and landmarks.
  • Don’t be afraid to use words like "blind" or "see." Their eyes may not work but it is still "nice to see you."
  • Be sensitive when questioning someone about their blindness. This is personal information and boundaries should be respected.

 

If you encounter a blind person with a Guide Dog:

 

  • Do not pet or otherwise distract a Guide Dog while they are wearing a harness. They are not pets. Distracting a guide dog while he/she is working can endanger the life of the blind person.
  • If the dog is not “working” ask permission before you pet him/her. Don't pat the dog on the head or pull its ears, stroke the dog gently on the shoulder area.
  • Don’t offer food or drink to a Guide Dog. Guide Dog owners must carefully monitor food and liquid intake so they know when to allow the dog to relieve itself.
  • Do not allow your dog, while on leash, to interact with a guide dog - again, the blind person depends on their dog to guide them safely.

 

If you see a person who is blind and seems to need assistance:

 

  • Introduce yourself and ask the person if they need assistance.
  • Provide assistance if it is requested.
  • 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 person who is blind asks you for directions:

 

  • Use words such as "straight ahead," "turn left," "on your right" or use phrases, such as "go approximately 5 feet then turn left and go another 10 feet".
  • Do not point and say "go that way" or "it's over there."
  • Ask, "Would you like me to guide you?" Offering your elbow is an effective and dignified way to lead someone who is blind. Do not be afraid to identify yourself as an inexperienced sighted guide and ask for tips on how to improve. Using audible cues, such as a tap or pat on an object (such as a chair or doorway), is a good technique for showing their location. Commenting, 'Here's the chair,' while tapping on it helps the individual to quickly locate it.

 

If you are asked to guide a person who is blind :

 

  • Allow the person you are guiding to hold your arm and follow as you walk.
  • 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.
  • Hesitate briefly at a curb or at the beginning of a flight of stairs and tell them why you are doing so.
  • Tell the person you are guiding whether the steps go up or down before proceeding.
  • Don't attempt to grab or steer the person while the dog is guiding him or attempt to hold the dog's harness.
  • Do not give commands to the dog, allow the master to do so.

 

In a restaurant:

 

  • Give clear directions to available seats. Your offer to read the menu aloud may be appreciated, but you shouldn't assume that they are not able to order food on their own.
  • Offer a visual description of items on a table: ketchup bottle, water glasses, salt and pepper shakers, etc. You can describe the location of items by using clock positions: "Your coffee is at 3 o'clock"; "The sugar is at 1 o'clock."

 

If a person who is blind visits your home with his/her Guide Dog:

 

  • Don't give a Guide Dog table scraps. Please respect the master's need to give the dog a balanced diet and to maintain its good habits.
  • Don't allow children to tease or abuse the dog.
  • Don't allow the dog on your furniture or in areas of the home mutually agreed upon by the family and master. Ask the master to correct any errant behavior or trespassing.
  • Don't let the dog out of the house unsupervised. Please understand its value to the master.

 

Remember: People who are blind are people first. People with blindness often feel isolated, so your willingness to engage them in conversation will be a mutually rewarding experience. All of our graduates are fascinating people with wonderful stories to tell. Take the time to learn something about them, you’ll be glad that you did.

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Me and my guide

Amit Bar-El was a soldier fighting house-to-house during the 2006 Lebanon War. As he rushed to the aid of a wounded comrade, Amit opened a door only to have a rocket fly past and explode in the wall next to him. He received multiple shrapnel wounds

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