Supporting a person with vision impairment
There are many ways you can provide assistance.
Whether you know the person well or you are meeting for the first time, here are some things to consider:
- You should never assume a person with vision impairment requires assistance without first asking them: “Would you like help?”
- Always introduce yourself, even if you’ve met the person before. They may know who you are, but they may not recognise your voice alone without context. You don’t need to raise your voice. Just speak clearly.
- If you have to move away while talking to a person with blindness, tell them you are leaving the conversation, so they’re not left talking to themselves.
- It’s okay to use words like “see”, “look” and “watch” in general conversation. People with vision impairment use those words themselves.
- If you’re giving directions, use phrases like “behind you on your left”, or “in front of you and to the right”. Using a clock face to describe the features of a room is useful too: “The door is to your right at 2 o’clock”. General terms like “over there” or “that way” aren’t as helpful for a person with blindness or vision impairment.
- Try to inform a person with vision impairment if you give them something. For example, if you give them a drink, say “I am putting a cup next to your right hand”.
Support in group situations
Communication is especially important in a group setting.
If you are in a group of people with a person who is blind or has vision impairment, tell them the names of the people in the group.
Clearly use each person’s name when you talk, so it is clear who’s speaking and interacting.
If you want or need information from a person who is blind or has a vision impairment, ask the person directly. Do not ask another person to answer on their behalf.
Assisting a person with a Guide Dog
A Service Dog performs an important role.
If a person with vision impairment has a Guide Dog, it’s important that you don’t pat or talk to the dog if it is wearing a harness.
The harness is a signal that the dog is working. Interacting with a working Guide Dog can create distractions or confusion, and put their Handler’s safety at risk.