Individuals that might have never come in contact with a blind or low vision person, might not know how to act when they interact with them. Inexperience, lack of awareness and false assumptions can turn an interaction between a visually impaired and a sighted individual somewhat unpleasant. In reality, interacting with a blind person is truly not too complicated, as long as sighted individuals realise that such interactions are as normal as any others. Here is, thus, a simple guide to interacting with the blind.
When talking to a visually impaired person, speak normal. Blind people cannot see you but can definitely hear you and understand you. Hence, speaking louder or slower does not contribute into anything rather than making the whole interaction awkward.
Talk to them directly
You can address speech to the visually impaired directly without having to refer to a companion. As stated above, blind and low vision people might not see you but they can hear you, unless you’re aware that their hearing is bad.
You can use vision-related words
Sighted individuals tend to feel uncomfortable using phrases or words related to vision, such as “Nice to see you” or “It looks like it’s closed”, though, it’s totally alright to use them when engaging in a discussion with someone blind. Words related to blindness are, of course, okay as well. Visual impairment is not a taboo for the visually impaired, it’s their reality.
Be clear when you talk to them
Sighted people do not always realise how many visual cues are used in everyday interactions. Considering that a visually impaired person cannot interpret visual cues, sighted individuals should be more descriptive when discussing with someone blind or low vision. Hence, make it clear that you are addressing to them and try to be more explanatory. Instead of, for instance, saying “be careful there’s a curb” you should say “be careful of the curb on your right”.
Don’t touch them too much
Like anyone else, blind and visually impaired individuals do not like to be touched by strangers. Instead of touching or pushing a blind person towards a direction, ask them whether they need help or inform them that you’d like to pass past them.
Involve them just like anyone else
Visually impaired individuals are just like any other person. Involve them in your discussions, paying attention to remain descriptive as mentioned above. In the bottom line, act normal and behave the way you would with anyone else, just adding one more level of awareness to your behavior.
Interacting with the visually impaired is, eventually, not a science. Have a good intention, be aware of a few basic things and the rest will come. In case you’re unsure whether something is appropriate or not, you can simply ask the blind or low vision person. Acting on assumption is worse than the willingness to learn. Hence, we would say that the secrets of interacting with the visually impaired are two; having a positive attitude and being open to learn.
The following video produced by Special Touch consists of sketches and descriptive audio, summing up the core Dos and Dont's when interacting with a visually impaired individual.
Are there any points you think should be in this list? Let us know!