In Disability Etiquette Part IV, we explored interacting respectfully with individuals who have hearing and speech impairments. Next we talk about etiquette around individuals who are blind or visually impaired.
People who are blind have most often learned to orient themselves and to travel independently. They may need their arms for balance, so if you are going to offer your arm, ask first and don’t just take hold of him or her. Don’t assume that they need assistance.
- Verbally identify yourself as you approach the individual.
- If walking with them and their guide dog, walk on the side opposite to the animal.
- Don’t touch the person’s cane or their guide dog.
- Alert the individual to upcoming obstacles, stairways or other potential hazards.
- Offer to read information, such as menu items or price tags; if doing a money transaction, identify the bills you are giving them or receiving from them.
- Let the person know if you’re leaving; don’t just walk away. Ask if they need anything before you leave.
- At a meal, you can let them know where food items are located on their plates as if the plate were a clock. For example, “The beans are at 2 o’clock; the chicken is at 10 o’clock.”
- If making signs or labels for people with diminished sight, make the lettering clear, not ornate, and with high contrast.
- While you want to have good lighting, for persons with low vision avoid overly bright light as it can create a glare.
Are you a Helen Keller fanboy or fangirl? The American Federation for the Blind, where Keller worked for more than 40 years, posts excerpts from her archival materials on Helen Keller: The Official Fan Page on Facebook. You can see the telegram she received from Lyndon Johnson about receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom.