As part of Blindness Awareness Month 2020 which runs for the whole of October, London Vision's Liam O'Carroll and Jonathan Ward have put together some useful tips for assisting blind and partially sighted people (if they need it), all (hopefully) without causing annoyance or offence. 

The world at large

Try during small talk to discuss topics of general interest as you would with anyone else. Don’t assume blind people are desperate to discuss the subject of visual impairment: they may in fact be sick of having to answer questions like ‘have you always been blind?’ or ‘How did you lose your sight?’ and so on.

When a blind person approaches, please carry on with your conversation. If you go quiet at that moment, you will remove the very thing they were using to navigate around you so they will no longer know where you are. It will also make them self-conscious as it will seem to them as though they were the cause of the silence.

Work in hospitality or the service sector?

If you work behind a bar, counter or any customer help point, please do not keep quiet: how will the blind person know that you are ready to serve them?

Please let the blind customer know that you have brought over their drink, meal or whatever: please don’t just put it down without a word and go off.

If a blind person is paying for something, please don’t give their change to any sighted companion who may be present: please give change to the person who owns it.

Final thoughts

Remember everyone with sight loss has different needs and these may vary in different situations:

    • Be open and friendly and don’t be shy about asking what help people with sight loss need
    • Don’t forget to identify yourself as a member of staff or introduce yourself
    • Say when you are leaving the room and reintroduce yourself on your return
    • Don’t point or say it’s over there
    • Don’t worry about saying “did you see” or “see you later”
    • If a person with sight loss regularly uses your service let them know if anything has changed since their last visit
    • Support people to take part by telling them it’s their turn remember a person with sight loss won’t necessarily see body language or other social cues.
    • Ensure your websites and information are easily accessible and contain information about accessibility both of your service and local transport
    • Make sure your signage is large and clear and your facility makes the best use of colour contrast, lighting, and tactile indicators
    • Keep your facility clear and free from tripping hazards
    • Allow people with sight loss the time and space to be independent
    • Consider facilities for guide dogs such as water bowls and spending areas

    We hope you've found these tips and suggestions useful! A polite offer of help can sometimes really help alleviate the stress of crossing a road, or enable someone to make a choice in a shop or a cafe. Please do remember that blind and partially sighted people don't always need your help - don't be offended if your offer of assistance isn't taken up! 

    Want to know more about sight loss? Visit our Living with Sight Loss pages. 

    Check out this blog for tips on guiding, including guiding in a pandemic!

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