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Communication Tips

  • When speaking with a person who is blind or visually impaired, be mindful of your volume. You don’t need to raise your voice to be heard by someone with vision loss.
  • When dining out, offer to read the menu (including prices) out loud.
  • When the meal arrives, describe the location of the food on the table.
  • It’s most helpful to do this using a clock face as a point of reference. (For example: “The potatoes are at four o’clock, and the meat is at eight o’clock.”)
  • Verbalize your actions to clarify activities and avoid accidents. (For example: “I’m taking your outgoing mail” or “I’m reaching across the table.”)
  • Don’t worry about avoiding words such as “look” or “see.” Most people with vision loss use these words themselves.
  • Be aware that the senses of hearing, touch and smell do not automatically improve when somebody loses his or her vision. People with vision loss simply rely on their other senses more.
  • When in doubt, simply ask, “How can I help?”

Navigation Tips

  • When you’re walking with someone who is blind or visually impaired, don’t grab or pull them. It’s more helpful to simply offer your arm.
  • When entering the room of a person with vision loss, announce yourself by name. When escorting a person with vision loss into a room, it may be appropriate to introduce the people in that room.
  • Room doors, cabinet doors, car doors and other doors left partially open can be a hazard to people with vision loss. As a rule, you should leave doors either all the way open, or all the way closed.
  • When in the room of a person with vision loss, cabinets and drawers should be closed after use.
  • It is also helpful to push chairs in when leaving a table or desk. 

Courtesy Tips

  • When giving directions to people with vision loss, be verbal and specific. (Pointing in a certain direction or saying, “It’s over there” will not typically be helpful.)
  • Use words like “left” and “right” or “north” and “south.”
  • When exchanging money with a person who is blind, be specific about each bill you hand him or her, so he or she can identify it later.
  • Many people who are blind or visually impaired prefer the use of “People First” language. For example, you might refer to “a woman who is blind” instead of “a blind woman.” This word structure prevents blindness or visual impairment from defining the person.
  • Be aware that only people who are blind or visually impaired are permitted to carry a white cane. Drivers in all 50 states are required to yield the right-of-way when they see a person walking with a white cane.