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Proper preparation can give you the tools to act as an effective sighted guide for a person who is blind or visually impaired.

To avoid mishaps, the person guiding and the person being guided must be in sync. In addition to a short video that offers instruction for human guides, we have listed some basic techniques and reminders to use when guiding a person with vision loss.

Preparing

  • At points in the life of a person with vision loss, guided travel is helpful and necessary.
  • Guided travel is most needed in areas unfamiliar to the person who is blind. It is also preferred when in large groups or crowds.
  • If you are preparing to serve as a sighted guide, ask someone to help you practice beforehand.
  • When learning how to be a sighted guide, it may be helpful to blindfold yourself in order to gain an understanding of what’s important.
  • If a person who is blind has his or her cane extended, or a guide dog in a harness, they are not using you as a sighted guide.
  • When guiding a person with vision loss, walk consistently and give ample space to the person being guided.
  • Never speak to, touch, or otherwise give attention to a working guide 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 you are guiding will firmly hold your arm above the elbow and follow you a half-step behind. (This allows the person being guided to anticipate changes such as steps, ramps, doors or narrow passageways.)
  • Maintain good communication with the person you are guiding to ensure that he or she understands his or her surroundings.

Navigating

When acting as a guide, follow these instructions upon encountering the following specific situations:

Steps & Ramps

  • Slow down and stop before going up or down.
  • Always try to approach steps and ramps squarely.
  • Verbalize to the person you are guiding what is being faced. (For example: “We’re about to take six steps up” or “We’re about to go down a ramp.”)
  • When possible, keep one hand on the handrail while offering your other arm to the person being guided.
  • Tell the person you are guiding when the end of the steps or ramp has been reached.


Doors

  • If possible, approach the door so you are on the side with the doorknob, and the person you are guiding is closer to the door 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, so that the person you are guiding may follow behind you.


Taking a Seat

  • Approach the chair squarely, and tell the person you are guiding whether they are facing the seat or the back of the chair.
    Guide the hand of the person to the chair’s backrest.


Entering a Car

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


Irregular Terrain

  • Slow your pace, and attempt to describe the terrain to the person you are guiding.