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How to Help/Guide a Blind Person

BLINDNESS is a physical handicap which can be minimised by appropriate rehabilitation and by development and use of the other senses.

About nine out of ten blind persons you meet have lost their sight in adulthood. They are likely to be interested in the same things as you are.

They don’t need your pity or your expression of sympathy and wonder.

Most people find a certain awkwardness in the role of guide, which arises from their lack of knowledge of effective techniques of handling the situation. The following governing principles will assist in relieving this uncertainty.

Always try to remember that a blind person cannot see. This fact is apt to escape the associates of blind people as they gain a familiarity with the effectiveness which is possible for the blind, and lose the impression that blindness means helplessness. There is no magic to the effectiveness of blind people, and it depends heavily upon securing from seeing people information which could be gained by touch, but only with embarrassment, as for example information that there are both biscuits and rolls on a bread tray. Openness, directness, and unobtrusiveness should govern the imparting of such information.

When speaking to a blind person speak no more loudly than necessary, speak distinctly and direct your words to the blind person alone.

When guiding a blind person ask him to take your bent arm by the elbow and you lead. Never take his arm and try to push him ahead of you. Show him where your elbow is by touching his arm with it. Hold your elbow to your side and walk half a pace ahead of him.

In dangerous places or on stairs stay a whole pace ahead.

In a narrow space swing your guiding elbow behind your body and this will be his cue to step behind you and to keep behind you until your arm is again by your side.

Tell a blind person you have not guided before when you come to steps or to places where he may stumble. Tell him whether the step or curb goes up or down. Approach a step or curb at right angles. When you are used to each other he will know you have reached steps by the movement of your elbow.

When giving directions, say simply “move to your right” or “move to your left”. Give exact directions and try to anticipate to avoid difficulties.

A half-opened door is a most dangerous obstacle, as is an unusual object left where a blind person may walk alone.

In guiding a blind person towards a chair bring him to where he can touch it. Tell him what part of the chair he is touching and which way the chair is facing.

In guiding a blind person into a car, tell him which direction the car is facing. Place one of his hands on the door handle. The other hand is placed on top of the car. He can now manoeuvre himself into the car. Beware of slamming car doors until you are sure his hands are clear. His hands are even more important to him than yours are to you.

You can also help by describing what food is on the plate and its position for example: Peas at 1 o’clock. Mashed potato at 6 o’clock. Special utensils or cutlery are not necessary.

If you are in doubt whether you can be of assistance, offer help and let the blind person guide you as to his needs.

If any of the above methods of assistance annoy the blind person, then do not use those methods but help him as he wishes you to help.

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