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Tips on communicating with people who are blind.

Bosma Enterprises - 11/1/2019 3:00:41 PM

Have you ever seen someone who was blind or visually impaired while you were at the grocery
store, school, or just walking in your neighborhood and wanted to speak with them, but you
weren't quite sure how to start a conversation?

Have you ever seen someone who was blind or visually impaired while you were at the grocery store, school, or just walking in your neighborhood and wanted to speak with them, but you weren't quite sure how to start a conversation? Well, you are not alone. Many people, when they see someone who is blind, have good intentions, but aren't sure where to start, so they end up not saying anything at all. Remember, people who are blind are just like everyone else despite their loss of vision. Today, we are going to dive deep into the dos and don'ts when speaking and interacting with people who are blind.
 
Be yourself. People who are blind are just like everyone else. They have families, jobs, attend sporting events and go to the movies. You will find that people who are blind enjoy the same activities and have the same concerns as their sighted peers. Don't assume although a person has limited or no vision that they are unable to hold an intelligent conversation or have a lack of awareness due to their lack of vision.
 
Don't shout. Don't speak in an excessively loud voice or talk down to a person who is blind. Speak directly to the person and not the person standing next to them. This type of behavior shows the person who is blind that you are not interested in engaging with them and makes them feel less of a person.
 
Don't question. People who are blind are unique and have various levels of visual impairments, and just because a person has a white cane does not mean that they are totally blind. However, it does mean they have some level of visual impairment. So do not question if they can see an object or deny their claims of not being able to see.
 
Be specific. When giving directions to people who are blind, you should be specific. Don't say, "it's over there," instead you should inform a person who is blind that the item is to the left or right. Being specific helps people who are blind navigate and feel more comfortable in their surroundings.
 
Be considerate. It's also okay to ask a person who is blind if they have seen that television show or the latest movie. Although the person does not physically see, they won't be offended by the word "see."
 
People-first. Use people-first language when talking to a person who is blind. Rather than saying the blind man, try using the man who is blind. Using people-first language puts the person before their disability. Although a person is blind, their blindness is only one characteristic and does not define them as a person.
 
Identify yourself. When entering or leaving a room with a person who is blind, you should identify yourself. In a group setting, say who you are talking to so the person who is blind knows when it's their turn to speak.
 
Just ask. There are times a person who is blind may want assistance, and there are times they may not need any help. Offer your help, but don't be offended if they turn you down.
We hope the next time you see someone who is blind or visually impaired, remember the tips above. Don't be afraid to walk up to a person who is blind and start a conversation. You never know, you may meet a new friend. 
 
For more courtesy tips or if you know someone dealing with vision loss, visit us at https://www.bosma.org/Navigating-Blindness.