How to Communicate with Someone who is Blind

    How to Communicate with Someone who is Blind 

  • Don’t feel overly conscious or obsess about being politically correct when talking to someone who is blind.
  • People who are blind are generally not offended by words like “see,” “look,” and “watch” in everyday conversation.
  • There’s also no need to avoid using the words “blind” or “visually impaired”.  Don’t tip-toe around it.
  • Whenever possible, try to use “people first” language, such as “people who are blind” rather than “blind people” or “the blind”.
  • It’s perfectly acceptable to use descriptive language, such as making reference to colors, patterns, designs and shapes.
  • Don’t speak in an exaggeratedly loud voice or talk down to a person who is blind.
  • Direct questions or comments directly to the person who is blind or visually impaired, not to someone they are with.
  • Avoid pointing to objects or people; instead, verbalize by saying, “It’s on your left.”
  • Identify yourself when someone who is blind or visually impaired enters a room or when you are approaching the person.  For example, say, “Hi, Joe. It’s Emily.”
  • If you’re in a group, try to address a person who is visually impaired by name so that he or she knows who you’re talking to.
  • Introduce a blind person to other people in the room, such as in a meeting or at a lunch table.
  • When leaving a room, it’s courteous to let a blind person know that you are leaving.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a person if he or she needs help; if the answer is no, respect his or her wishes.
  • People who are blind don’t have “superhuman” senses of hearing, touch or smell; they’ve simply learned to get more information from these other senses because they rely on them more.
  • People who are blind probably don’t want your pity, but chances are, they’d like to feel like a part of the team at their job just like anybody else.  Don’t be afraid to make the first move.

    From the National Federation of the Blind (NFB): www.nfb.org.
    When you meet me, don’t be ill at ease. It will help both of us if you remember these simple points of courtesy:

  • I’m an ordinary person, just blind. You don’t need to raise your voice or address me as if I were a child. Don’t ask my spouse what I want — ask me.
  • I may use a long white cane or a guide dog to walk independently; or I may ask to take your arm. Let me decide, and please don’t grab my arm; let me take yours. I’ll keep a half-step behind to anticipate curbs and steps.
  • I want to know who’s in the room with me. Speak when you enter. Introduce me to the others. Include children, and tell me if there’s a cat or dog.
  • The door to a room, cabinet or car left partially open is a hazard to me.
  • At dinner I will not have trouble with ordinary table skills.
  • Don’t avoid words like “see.” I use them, too. I’m always glad to see you.
  • I don’t want pity. But don’t talk about the “wonderful compensations” of blindness. My sense of smell, touch, or hearing did not improve when I became blind. I rely on them more and, therefore, may get more information through those senses than you do — that’s all.
  • If I’m your houseguest, show me the bathroom, closet, dresser, window — and the light switch, too. I like to know whether the lights are on.
  • I’ll discuss blindness with you if you’re curious, but it’s an old story to me. I have as many other interests as you do.
  • Don’t think of me as just a blind person. I’m just a person who happens to be blind.