Guidelines for Meeting and/or Working with Persons Experiencing Vision Loss
Most people with vision loss have normal hearing. There is no need to shout. Elderly people may have a hearing loss, but don’t assume so.
Speak directly to the person. There is no need for an interpreter.
Feel free to use words like “look,” “see,” and “watch.”
Identify yourself when approaching someone who is blind and let him/her take your arm.
Never guide a blind person by pushing him/her in front of you or walking backwards in front of him/her.
When walking with a blind person, let him/her hold your arm just above the elbow. This technique is called Sighted Guide. Relax. Walk one step in front of the person, informing him/her of stairs, ramps, curbs, etc. When the person needs more support, he/she might want to hold on to your forearm. A blind person who is experienced with Sighted Guide will know to stay behind you and follow the movements of your body.
When seating a blind person, it is usually enough to put his/her hand on the back of the chair and allow him/her to seat himself/herself.
When leaving a blind person, let him/her know that you are leaving. Don’t leave him/her there talking to himself/herself.
When pushing a blind person in a wheelchair, always inform him/her that you are ready to go. It can be a shock to be moved suddenly if you are not expecting it.
When describing objects, be as specific as possible. Use the face of a clock to indicate position. Try not to use phrases such as “over there,” “over here,” etc. Use left, right, 12 inches high, for example.
Allow blind people to touch objects as often as possible to acquire additional information.
At mealtime, use the face of the clock to tell the person the location of items on his/her plate, i.e. “Your meat is at 6 o’clock; your peas are at 10 o’clock”.
Place settings may be described in the same manner. The water glass may be at 1 o’clock and the napkin at 9 o’clock. Encourage the blind person to explore his/her place setting by slowly moving his/her hand from the edge of the table toward the middle. He/she should keep his/her fingers curled and move slowly to prevent coming into contact with an object that might be harmful or potentially spilling something.
Encourage the blind person to use a pusher to help guide foods onto his/her fork or spoon. This can be a roll, a piece of bread, or a stationary item like mashed potatoes. The person may be able to tell if food is on his/her fork by feeling the weight.
If necessary, it is acceptable for the blind person to lean forward slightly to meet his/her fork or spoon.
It is very helpful to have food cut up in the kitchen before it comes to the table. Ask the server to have meat or large pieces of food (i.e. lasagna) cut prior to serving it.
In the blind person’s room, always leave things in the same position. It can be upsetting to expect something to be in a certain place and find that it isn’t there. And it is disconcerting to find a piece of furniture or wastebasket where you weren’t expecting it.
Be careful to leave doors either all the way open or completely closed. Half-open doors have caused many a bumped head.
If a person has low vision, try not to seat him/her facing a light source, such as a window. This can make it much harder to see.
It is important that caretakers be aware of unknowingly encouraging dependency. Visually impaired persons must be allowed to do things for themselves whenever possible.
The most important thing is to remember that a visually impaired individual is a person first. He/she is a person with a vision problem, but he/she is the same person he/she was before.