Here you will find some simple tips on ways you can assist a person with sight loss.
A 3 step approach
- If you think someone needs help, walk up to them and say “hello”.
- Ask the person if they would like assistance. The person will accept your offer or tell you if they are ok.
- If the person needs help, ask them how you can help.
Do not assume the person needs help and do not assume what kind of help they need.
Here are other ways you can help:
- If you know a person with sight loss, greet them by saying hello and your name, for example “Hello, it’s John here”.
- It’s easier if you know the person with sight loss by name – say their name when you are speaking to them. If you don’t know their name, don’t be afraid to ask, as well as giving your own name.
- Talk directly to the person rather than through a third party.
- If you’ve been talking to a person with sight loss, tell them when you are leaving, so that they are not left talking to themselves.
- In a group situation, introduce the other people present. Address the person with sight loss by name when directing conversation to them.
- If someone joins or leaves the group, tell the person with sight loss that this has happened.
- Don’t be afraid to use terms like “see you later” or “did you see”.
- If you are giving directions, don’t point. Give clear verbal directions, for example ‘the door is to your left’.
- Don’t assume that because a person can see one thing that they can see everything. If necessary, ask the person if they can see a particular landmark or object.
- Similarly, don’t assume that a person using a white cane or guide dog is totally blind. Many people with some remaining vision use these.
- Always let a person with sight loss know when you are approaching. A sudden voice at close range can be very startling. Speak first from a little distance away, and again as you get closer.
- Be punctual. Unpunctuality can cause a person with sight loss stress. Remember too that the person may not be able to see whether you have arrived.
- If you see head-height obstacles ahead of a person using a white cane or guide dog, warn them.
- To avoid the possibility of someone banging their head, close all doors and cupboards.
- If you need to move something belonging to a person with sight loss, tell them what you have moved and where it is. If possible, put back the item to where it was so that they can find it later.
How to guide a person with sight loss
If a person with sight loss asks to be guided here is the best approach:
- Make contact by touching the back of their hand with the back of your hand. Say, “take my arm”. Keep your arm by your side and the person with sight loss can walk a little behind you, holding your arm just above the elbow.
- When you start walking you should be half a step ahead. Watch out for obstacles above, below and to the sides. It’s helpful to give commentary on what is around the person such as “there is a step down here”.
- Walk at a pace that is comfortable for both of you and stop to explain obstacles if necessary.
- Most importantly relax!
If you need more advice about ways to assist a person with sight loss, NCBI is here to help. Call us on Tel: 01 8307033 or email [email protected].