In 2011 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were approximately 12 million Americans who were visually impaired. That number is expected to climb because of aging Baby Boomers and other factors. In addition, in 1988 a Gallup poll survey recognized blindness as the fourth most feared disability or medical condition. Having experience with the visually impaired community, the one resounding point I learned and must be emphasized here is: individuals with disabilities are people first. To reduce fear and increase societal well-being, I present some tips here to help when encountering people who are visually impaired.
• Identify Yourself– When you meet a person with vision loss, you should identify yourself. Don’t make them play the guessing game. For instance, “Hi, Steve, guess who?”
• Use Your Regular Speaking Tone and Speed – Don’t shout or use a slower speaking voice when talking to someone who is visually impaired
• “seeing” words Are Fine — People who have vision loss use words such as “see” or “look” and you should also use these words during conversation with them.
• Speak directly to the person Who is Visually Impaired — often when a person with vision loss is with someone else, the tendency of people is to avoid speaking to the person who has a visual impairment.
(If you were dining out with an adult person who is blind and you two were equals in every other way and the waiter/waitress asked you: “What would your companion like?” How would you respond? Answer: Politely direct the person to ask your companion.)
• Offer to help — if you see someone who is visually impaired who looks disoriented, offer assistance. Don’t be offended when your assistance is rejected. The person may not need your help. It is better to offer than not to offer.
• Let the person who is blind take your arm — the person who needs a human guide should take the arm of the guide. As the guide you should lead the person with a visual impairment.
• Be specific when giving information — when you say “The class is lining up over there” or “put the book here,” you are not specific enough. Say: “The class is lining up on the north side of the gym,” or, “Put the paper in the bottom left corner of the drawer.”
• If you have to walk away from a person with a visual problem, be sure the person has an “anchor.” (e.g., a wall, a chair) and is not left alone in the middle of a room.
• Let the person with a visual Impairment Know when you are leaving – For example, “Clark, I need to go get something for class.” Or “I’m glad we spoke, but I need to go.” Etc. That’s all it takes.
Source: Proper Etiquette When Meeting a Blind Person. Retrieved March 18, 2014, from: http://www.njbca.org/propretiquet.htm