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Sighted Guide Techniques

With preparation and learning, you can have the confidence you need to be an effective sighted guide.

It’s important that a sighted guide and the person they’re assisting are in sync to avoid mishaps. Here are basic techniques and reminders when acting as a sighted guide to someone who is blind or visually impaired. And in general, if you’re in a situation where you’re not sure what to do, ask the person you’re assisting how you can help.


  • Guided travel is almost always helpful and necessary, at some point in the life of a person who is blind or visually impaired
  • It’s most needed in unfamiliar areas, and it’s preferred in large groups, crowds or gatherings
  • If you are preparing to serve as a sighted guide, ask someone to help you practice beforehand
  • You can even blindfold yourself to gain an understanding of what’s important
  • If a person who is blind has their cane extended or guide dog in a harness, they are not using you as a sighted guide
  • Walk consistently, and give them ample space
  • Never speak to, touch or otherwise give attention to a working dog

Getting Started

  • When approaching a person who is blind, ask if assistance is needed
  • Never grab or pull a person who is blind
  • Relax your arm down to your side
  • The person will firmly hold your arm above the elbow and follow you a half step behind
  • This allows the person to anticipate changes such as steps, ramps, doors or narrow passageways
  • Maintain good communication throughout to ensure the person understands their surroundings


Use the following guidelines for specific situations:

Steps & Ramps

  • Slow down and stop before going up or down
  • Always try to approach steps and ramps squarely
  • Verbally, let the person know what you are facing (e.g., six steps up or ramp going down)
  • It’s advised to guide the person with one hand, and keep your other hand on the handrail, if possible
  • Tell the person when they’ve reached the end of the steps or ramp


  • If possible, approach the door so you’re on the side of the doorknob, and the person you’re guiding is closest to the hinges
  • Announce the orientation of the door for example: “Door opening toward you on the left”

Narrow Passageways

  • Announce that you’re approaching a narrow passageway
  • Move your guiding arm behind your back, the person will follow behind you

Taking a Seat

  • Approach the chair squarely, and tell the person if they’re facing the seat or the back of the chair
  • Guide their hand to the backrest

Entering a Car

  • Open the car door and guide the person's hand to the top corner of the open door

Irregular Terrain

  • Describe the terrain to the person as best you can, and slow your pace