Home > Blindness Related Info > How You Can Help a Blind Person
Following are some tips on how to help or assist a blind person. This can be an acquaintance or friend, but blind people often visit the same places as sighted ones - the mall, the beach, a restaurant or whatever, so it might occur you've never known any blind people but you just encouter one when you're shopping or going to a pop concert etc. So it's always helpful to read through the following.
When you meet a blind person who appearantly may need your help finding his way, don't push or pull him in the direction you asumme he wants to go. Ask him if you can help him find his way or what he is looking for. Sometimes it's enough to tell the person where to go, using words like "left" or "right", not "here" or "there" cause the blind or visually impaired person will probably not know where's "there". Also don't point in a direction, cause the person might not see you pointing. Sometimes you'll need to lead a blind person. It's most usual to let the person grab your elbow with his hand. Many blind people will feel what you are doing (eg. go down stairs) or they'll feel it with their cane, but sometimes it's appreciated to warn him or her about things like steps. Never grab a blind person's cane to lead him that way. It looks embarassing and it's supposed a cane is used to feel obstacles. Further, I personally don't mind much about the way sighted people guide me, but when you push a blind person like he's a shopping trolley, you'll probably both look embarrassing.
Always leave a door or window completely open or completely closed. Half-open doors and windows may not be felt with the cane. You can show a blind person a chair or bench on putting his hand on the back or arm. It's not necessary to push someone in the chair.
It's often polite to identify yourself when entering a room where a blind person is, and certainly when starting a conversation with him or her. Especially when the person doesn't know you very well yet, he may not recognize you by your voice. When you want to say something to a blind person, always talk to him and not to someone who's with him. It's not necessary to speak extra loud to a blind person; most have normal hearing and therefore will have no difficulty understanding you. When speaking to a blind or partially sighted person, look directly to them so that they can follow your voice with their eyes and face you. It's not nessecary to avoid words like "look" and "see". The blind person knows what they mean and they are part of normal language. It's rather strange to say "listen television" cause the sentence should be "watch television" and a blind person will know what you mean. Some blind people like to talk about their disability, and some do not. It's nicest to ask the person if he's comfortable talking about his blindness. When leaving the room, tell the person that you go, so that the blind person won't talk to the air.
When eating with a blind person, it's nice to tell him what is on his plate, although some blind people can feel it with their fork. You can use a clock-like system to explain where foods are, for instance: "Your meat's at six O'clock". When eating in a restaurant you can offer to read the menu for the blind person, but he can order his own meal. There's no need to help the blind person pay, cause he can probably distinguish the various coins or types of papar money. This of course also applies to other shops.
When encountering a blind or visually impaired person, first think of what you should do if a sighted person was in the same situation. For example, if you don't like something a blind person does, tell him so. If you have questions about someone's blindness, it's better to ask the blind person about it than to for instance whisper your assumptions to a friend. Sometimes, people may not feel comfortable talking about their disability, but they'll tell you so. Never treat a blind person as if they're retard or crazy; they'll understand you if you just talk to them and act the way you would do around sighted people.