I’m blind, but I’m not any more special than you, I just do things differently. I live alone and 90% of my daily activities I can do without help. For example: I can cook, clean my house, wash clothes, go shopping, read and use a computer with a special app. But there are also things I can’t do on my own and I could use your support..
What your attitude should be when you offer me your support
If you want to know the effective way to help me, I will detail them below! If you want to help me, ask me how you can do it. I will always be happy to answer. It’s normal that you don’t know how to help me, it’s just that you don’t meet someone every day who can’t see! When you help me, do it naturally, as you would help any other person.
First social contact with me
If you see me at the station or on the bus and you want to talk to me, please touch me lightly on the elbow so I know you’re talking to me. Say hello and ask me how you can help me. Speak to me in a normal tone of voice. When I am accompanied and you want to know something about me, please ask me directly, not the companion, as I know my situation best. If it’s not the first time you meet me and want to say hello, please tell me your name, because I can’t always recognise your voice and I will become distant in conversation..
In the bus station
When you meet me at the bus stop, ask me what number I’m waiting for and let me know when it arrives at the stop. Lead me to the open door and place my free hand on the door bar, it’s enough for me to get on safely. Don’t try to lift my arm, hold on to my cane or try to lift me up, because you’ll decrease my mobility, I could get off balance and we could both fall.
How do you point me to a seat on the bus
When there’s an empty seat on the bus, lead me to it, put my hand on the back of the seat and let me sit alone.
How to get into a car
When I need to get into a taxi or other car and you want to give me your support, please put my hand on top of the open door, that way I will know how to sit down without bumping myself.
How to guide me in wide spaces
If you want to walk me down the street, please offer me your arm. It will be enough for me to move safely. Please don’t ever tell me to pick up my cane or hold it, because for me the white cane helps me to take in what is in front of me.
How to guide me in tight spaces
As we pass through a narrow space, please position your forearm behind you with the back of your palm against your spine and walk ahead of me. That way, I will understand that we are about to cross a narrow space and I will follow you with ease.
How to help me at a crosswalk
When we’re at a crosswalk with traffic lights, please tell me when it turns green. If there is no light and you have time, please walk me to the other sidewalk.
How to guide me up the stairs
When you lead me up the stairs, tell me if they go up or down, without this information I might fall. Please always walk one step ahead of me so that I know when the stairs end.
Correct positioning of doors and windows
Doors should always be closed or open. The intermediate position can cause accidents.
Correct marking of public works
Billboards should be at least 2 metres high, failure to do so puts me in danger as I cannot spot them with my stick and will hit my head. If the works are only marked with coloured tape, I have no way of identifying them in time with the white stick and I could fall. Open channels and street works, should be fenced off with protective signs. If you notice unmarked work, please warn me to avoid the area.
How you can help me shop
When you help me with my shopping, please let me know about possible options and prices. That way I can form a “visual representation” of the product.
How do you offer me something
When you offer me something, please place the product in my hand or place my hand on it. Don’t wait for me to look for it or take it from your hand, because I can’t see where it is.
How you can help me at the table
If you invite me to dinner, please explain how the food is placed on the plate as you would point to the digits on a clock face. Indicate the position of the glass by placing my hand on it. Please ask me if I need your help to cut the food.
How to point something out to me
When you want to point to an object or direction, please explain verbally how I can get to that object and don’t gesture. Imagine you are explaining to someone over the phone.
How you communicate in a group
If you’re at lunch, at a party, at college with friends and I’m in that group and you want to communicate with me, please tell me your name, then what you want to convey. That way I’ll know you’re talking to me.
What language you can use
Please don’t be embarrassed to use words like “see”, “look”, “look at”.
They are vocabulary words and you don’t have to invent new ones when you talk to me!
You can ask without any problems: – “Did you see that movie?” – “Do you watch TV?” etc.. Even if I don’t watch, I use various electronic devices to watch TV programmes. It would be quite bizarre to ask: “Did you listen to the movie?”
Visually impaired people fall into two categories:
- Blind people who usually use the white cane when walking in public or wear black glasses;
- Low vision – compensate for their visual impairment to a small extent with the help of glasses.
- Although poor sighted people wear glasses, they still don’t see as well as you do.
- So there are situations where they need your support too.
- When you want to offer them your support, simply ask: “How can I help you?”.
I hope you find the information in this guide useful when you want to support a student with a visual impairment.
Share the guide with your colleagues!
Best practice guide to interacting with a visually impaired student
Illustrations by Daniela MIRON (pherenikida)
BSD – learning to care, care for learning!
(1) the project “Orientation, mobility and daily life skills course for the blind” of the Travelling Book Foundation (2008).
(2) PONTES Association Information Guide by Carmen TUDORUȚ, Mirabela MISCHIE and Marian PĂDURE (2013)