If you are meeting a blind person for the first time, you may wonder how to behave. The obvious advice ‘behave normally’ may not be much help. Here are some suggestions, mostly from blind people, to put you and your friends at ease.
Blind people come from all sorts of backgrounds. There are blind sportsmen and women, farmers and chess players, teachers and typists, lawyers and housewives, computer programmers and masseurs, social workers and telephonists.
Talk naturally. Don’t talk down, or address all your remarks to a companion as though the blind person were not there. Don’t be afraid to say ‘Nice to see you’. Blind people say it too.
When you go up to a blind person and say hello, say who you are in case he or she doesn’t recognise your voice. Address him or her by name, if you know it. If not a light touch will indicate who you are speaking to.
Before you move away, say that you are about to leave. Anyone will feel foolish talking to empty space.
In The Street
Many blind people appreciate help to cross a road or find a shop. If your offer of help is rejected, don’t feel snubbed. The next blind person you come across will probably welcome your assistance. First, ask if you can help. Then walk slightly in front with the blind person holding your arm. If you are helping a blind person to get into a car, say which way it is facing, and place the person’s hand on the roof over the open door. If you are guiding a blind person on to a bus or train, you should go first. Never push the person in front of you.
Remember: You should always warn a blind person if you are approaching a flight of steps or a slope, and always say whether it goes up or down.
Don’t worry too much about delicate furniture or ornaments. Most blind people move about without leaving a trail of destruction behind them. Show the blind person around the room and describe the furniture as you pass it, mentioning only head-level hazards.
To help the visitor into a chair, put his or her hand on the arm or back of the chair and the person will be able to find the way to the seat. Don’t leave doors half open , and don’t leave things lying around on the floor when a blind person is visiting you. If you are the visitor, don’ move anything unless absolutely necessary, and if you have to move something, remember to say where you have put it.
When you invite a blind person for a meal, say what the food is when you serve it. Don’t fill cups or glasses to the brim – very full cups are easy to spill. If you are serving a bony piece of fish, offer to de-bone it. Otherwise, your visitor will tell you if any help is needed – usually he or she will manage alone quite happily.