Manual for treating and helping a visually impaired person

  1. When you give directions to a visually impaired person, be as accurate as possible, that is, be specific. Avoid using general terms such as: "here", "there", "straight ahead", etc. You can instead use instructions such as: 3 blocks; turning the next corner; after crossing walk 2 more streets, 4 more blocks and other similar instructions, depending on each case.
  2. Try to describe situations or something you are handing them. That is, if you are describing a place use words like: "to your left you will find a chair ", "in front of us there is a ladder", " The object you have in your hands, is a green plastic jug, with an airtight lid" or "I just put a blue ink pen in your right hand".
  3. When you help them carry out an action, think they can do better if they maintain control of the situation. For example: if you go out to lunch with a blind person,  usually the waiters will address the person who sees and not the blind person, then they will ask questions such as: What does he want to eat?,  Does your friend want coffee? This situation is very uncomfortable for the person with blindness, in this case, the conversation should be directed towards the blind person clarifying that he can speak for himself!
  4. Let them know when you are going to leave them and when you return so they will not find themselves talking alone and establish communication again upon your return. Likewise, indicate the exact place you are leaving them, as well as the things around them as well as the place where you are going to and an estimated time for your return.
  5. When you want to help them cross the street, always ask if they need help, don't take them by surprise like some people who act first and ask second. If the answer is negative do not feel bad, since they could have only be waiting for someone, or they simply already know the way. *The white cane is an international sign for the visually impaired, respect it. Don't kick it, don't snatch it from their hands, let alone damage it. The cane is their only means to move around and distinguish obstacles in their path.
  6. If you see a visually impaired person walking who will likely encounter a serious obstacle, avoid possible accidents and guide them to safety. Also, do not obstruct sidewalks with things that prevent them from walking freely. Also take care not to keep open windows with which they can injure themselves or any other object that could hurt them while they walk.
  7. When you find them disoriented in a corner or in a crosswalk, help them by asking whether they need help. Should they require help, give them your arm and let them follow you, do not push them ahead of you, grab or pull their arm sharply, or take the cane from them.
  8. If you are going to leave them alone for a while, or definitely, leave them near something they can touch, so that they maintains contact with the environment, or leave them near a wall so that they can guide themselves if they will continue walking alone.
  9. Many people make the mistake of yelling at them to prevent them from doing something dangerous. Please remember that unless the person also has a motor disability, the visual impairment does not prevent them from doing activities by themselves, unless they tell you so. Therefore you do not need to shout or raise your voice to heard, they can hear you perfectly. *Unless they themselves tell you that they did not listen to you.
  10. When you meet a visually impaired person, identify yourself by name... so they will remember your voice from that point on.
  11. When you invite them to lunch, tell them what they have been served; also tell them where their plates, glass and cutlery are. A good way to tell a visually impaired person what's on their plate is to use the clockwise system; for example: the meat is at your 12, at your 3 the vegetables, and the pasta is between your 6 and your 9.
  12. Using the clock technique also serves the visually impaired persons to guide themselves and find things at a table or to sit down. For example, when pulling a chair for them, place your hand on the backrest and tell them that the table is right in front of them and that to the left or right they have space to move their feet and sit. If these are very small spaces or with many protruding obstacles, help them to avoid accidents.
  13. Do not spend energy looking for substitutes for words such as: "see", "look", "blind" and do not avoid using them when necessary, the visually impaired persons have accepted their condition. The less you try to look for adjectives that do not make them feel bad and the more natural and relaxed your conversation is, the more effective your communication will be. Empathy is not the words used but rather the intention you give them.

Finally we must understand that visually impaired people are just as capable of doing the same we do, even if it involves extra effort. Therefore, we must accept them as part of our society in an inclusive way.

Author: Aida Marcela Vázquez García.

To learn more about Ara click on the button