The first and most essential step is to start by asking how you can help. More often than not, people tend to be nervous when interacting with a person who is blind. Most people struggle with what to say or what not to say.
Do you have trouble interacting with people who are blind because you don’t know the best way to go about it?
First, it is crucial to keep in mind that persons with visual impairment are not all the same – they may require varying responses and interaction levels. Second, you should understand that people with visual impairments have different levels of vision.
The guidelines outlined below will help you avoid negative connotations when engaging with people who are blind. Next time you meet someone who’s blind or has low vision, use these considerate ways to interact with them.
1. Always introduce yourself
When conversing with a person with visual impairment, it is proper to introduce yourself to know who they are talking to. Individuals with visual impairment have different vision levels; some people can’t see at all while others can see vaguely. Most people who are blind or visually impaired can identify people’s voices, especially of familiar individuals. Introducing yourself offers the individual an opportunity to describe their situation and require assistance in any way.
2. Always ask; never grab!
Some non-disabled people assume it is okay to grab a visually impaired individual, and lead them. Think for a sec, would you seize a non-disabled person without their consent in a bid to offer help? Clearly, such action may cause them to feel disoriented. Sometimes, it may cause panic.
You’re also much discouraged from petting or distracting a guide dog. As you might know, the guide dog directs the PWDs movement and keeps them safe. As such, any distraction could be life-threatening to someone with low vision.
When you want to guide someone with visual impairment, it is best to follow their instruction. If you didn’t know, it is ill-advised to grab a blind person’s cane or another mobility aid without their permission.
Next time, how about you try asking a person with visual impairment how they prefer to be guided?
3. Use image descriptions on social media
Social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram provide options to add captions to images uploaded. This provision makes the content accessible to everyone, even people with visual impairment. However, most social media users don’t use the feature since they seem unaware of its presence. Moving forward, you should know that it would be easier to exchange ideas with visually impaired people using the feature.
Twitter users can activate the option to add image descriptions in the settings accessibility. Clicking the ‘compose image descriptions’ enables the addition of explanation for any images in a tweet. For Instagram, users’ descriptions are added to uploads, and screen-readers can read them out.
Most people believe that visual content is equally important as written content, but people with visual impairment depend on descriptions. According to research, bloggers can reach visually impaired individuals by adding captions to images used in their blogs. Again, people with visual impairment rely on the screen reader to read the blog’s descriptions on their phone or computer.
4. Don’t assume anything
It is natural for assumptions to occur due to misconceptions and stigma exerted by non-disabled people. When this happens, it can be very frustrating for people with low or no vision. Instead of assuming, try asking, and you could prevent a misunderstanding or provocation.
When you ask, it facilitates better interactions and makes things easier for all parties. Perhaps you didn’t know, but most persons with disabilities are willing to answer any query as long as it is within reason.
Naturally, people tend to be curious about visual impairment and disability in general. Although you’re encouraged to ask questions, it is best to ensure that the queries are not invasive.
Overall, it would be best if you asked whenever you’re unsure how to interact with someone with low vision. Also, avoid any question that might seem rude or make them uncomfortable.
5. Treat people with visual impairments normally
It is baffling how non-disabled people meet individuals with disabilities and think it is okay to treat them like kids or shout at them. This type of behavior is unacceptable and, utterly disrespectful. Would a sighted individual be subject to the same treatment?
Also, what’s with people addressing a guide dog before acknowledging the owner? This is a very insulting tendency to the person with impaired vision.
Always speak to the visually impaired person first as they don’t need someone to speak on their behalf. Frankly, directing the conversation to a third-party companion seems inappropriate and disrespectful.
Finally, address people with disabilities using your normal tone as blindness, or visual impairment does not interfere with intelligence and hearing. Using a saccharine tone voice is disrespectful and unpleasant.
6. Avoid changing vocabulary when talking to people with visual impairment
Contrary to popular opinion, persons with visual impairment are not offended by individuals using words like ‘look,’ ‘see,’ or ‘watch.’ These connotations are part of their daily conversation. As such, there’s no need to change the way you speak around people with disabilities.
What’s more, people with visual impairment still share the same interest and appreciate taking part in a conversation. For that reason, never shy away from talking freely about movies, sports, and other topics with persons with low vision. It is encouraged to engage people with disabilities in conversations, mainly where social cues are applied.
Notably, when warning a blind or visually impaired person about impending danger, you should remain calm and observe clarity. Instead of shouting out “watch out!” or exclaiming danger, it is better to say, “the door in front is closed.”
And finally, when talking to someone with a visual impairment, avoid using complicated instructions concerning directions.