Identify Yourself – When you approach a visually impaired person don’t assume they’ll recognize you or your voice, and let them know when you’re leaving.
Speak Directly to the Individual – Direct your questions to the visually impaired person, not their companion. There’s no need to speak loudly.
Don’t Avoid Words – It’s okay to use words like “see” and “look”. Blind individuals use them too.
Don’t Pity – Don’t talk of the “amazing compensations” of blindness. Smell, touch, hearing and taste don’t automatically improve with blindness. These senses are just relied on more by blind individuals.
Be Aware of the Environment – Keep doors entirely open or closed. Push chairs into tables when vacating them. Keep cupboard doors closed. Don’t move furniture or personal belongings; or be sure to inform them if you do.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask – Visual impairment can vary from total lack of usable vision to vision nearly as good as yours under the right circumstances. If you don’t know how much assistance a person needs ask, “Would you like to take my arm?” or such questions as, “Do you need help finding the door?”
Guide, Don’t Steer – The best way to guide visually impaired persons is to let them grasp your arm just above the elbow. By walking a half step behind they can follow your body movement and anticipate curbs and steps.
Use Verbal Cues – If you are approaching a high step, slippery walk, narrow opening, or similar change from an assumed clear pathway tell the blind person in advance. Be alert to safety hazards and let them know about them.
Don’t Be in a Hurry – Physically fit visually impaired persons can walk along as briskly as you can, but it may take them an extra second to change pace. Slow down as you go around corners, pause at the top and bottom of stairs, take an extra minute to negotiate through doors.
Be Alert to Changes in Lighting – Lighting needs vary. Some see better in bright light, while others see better in dim light. Almost all visually impaired persons have difficulty adapting to changes in lighting. Going in and out of buildings or shadows can momentarily increase their impairment. Be prepared to offer assistance at these times.
Take Care Getting Into Automobiles – Visually impaired persons may not know which way a car is facing. Walk them to their door and be sure they know which way it is opening. Keeping your hand on the sharp corner of the door as they enter is a good idea to avoid injury.
It’s OK to Talk About a Person’s Visual Impairment – Visual impairment can take many forms that may be confusing to you. Some people can see well enough to read yet can’t find their way around a parking lot. Others can see at a distance but not read the paper. Some can even drive a car under some circumstances. It is alright to ask them about their impairment. Most visually impaired persons welcome the opportunity to help others understand vision loss better. Those who don’t like to talk about their condition or are bored with the topic will soon let you know by the tone or brevity of their answers. Remember, they have other interests too!