How to communicate with a visually impaired person – Do you know or live with someone that’s visually impaired? Are you put off by their presence and feel uncomfortable in situations with them? I’m here to explain all you need to know about getting rid of that feeling and interacting with anyone you come across.
For many people, interacting with someone who is visually impaired may seem like one of the most daunting tasks that one could be faced with. My father himself is almost completely blind, so my many years of experience living with him has taught me a lot about interacting with him.
For starters, how does one identify a visually impaired person? There are actually a number of ways to pick them from a crowd. Many decide to wear thick, pure black sunglasses in order to cover their eyes. Many visually impaired people have extremely sensitive eyes, and the sunglasses aid in protection. Another reason for the glasses may be for physical appearence, as their eyes may be facing in odd directions, like my father’s. Many also carry canes with them. No, not the typical old-person cane, but a long, five foot to six foot tall white cane with a red and white tip. They use these for navigation, tapping about in order to find obstacles or curbs. A guide-dog may also be present. Guide-dogs wear harnesses around their two front legs, which has a handle and a leesh attached. You may be inclined to interact with the dog, but restrain yourself and ignore its presence, as the dog is doing a job and can’t be distracted.
For starters, people with visual impairments are people too. They aren’t a lesser being, they aren’t a pest that can be ignored or anything of the like. Many are put off from interaction when it comes to dealing with visually impaired people, but I can honestly say that it’s a very rewarding thing to do. I’ve found that you actually get to learn more about a person if they’re visually impaired. My father works with many blind people, a lot of which I’ve met myself, and they’re all extremely friendly and have many stories to tell. A lot of blind people aren’t normally interacted with, and they would be more than happy to have someone to talk to that’s capable of over-looking their impairment.
Another obvious step would to have common courtesy. Don’t ask questions like, “how long have you been blind?” or, “how did you go blind?” This is extremely rude and everyone around you will hold a grudge for a time. If you’re ever in a situation that involves just a simple chat, never mention anything about the person’s impairment. Carry on a conversation like any two human beings would. Talk, laugh, ask how their day went, all of that jazz. Remember, they’re a person just like you.
You may be faced with a situation that requires you to aid a visually impaired person with a task. This could be anything, from helping with shopping, to operating kitchen appliances and to acting as a stand-in guide-dog. I’ve come into almost any situation you can think of with my father, but many haven’t had the opportunity. If you’re in a crowded place, such as a restaurant or a grocery store, and the visually impaired person you’re with needs to be led to a certain place, suggest that they hold on to your elbow or shoulder. This prevents them from walking into things, and doesn’t allow for the “follow my voice” game that some people like to play. You may see a visually impaired person fumbling to use a device or appliance, and all you need to do is walk over and ask if they need help. They’ll be elated that someone is helping them.
To close this off, all you basically need to do is be courtious. Don’t mention their impairment, and help them with whatever they need. Following all of these steps can lead to a very special bond between you. When I was little and found out that my father was almost totally blind, it confused me a bit because I had never met a blind person in my life. It was only until he had gotten his second guide-dog that I started to learn everything I needed to know about living with him. I learned to do simple things for him automatically, lead him around places when needed, and basically interact with visually impaired people.
So, that’s that. I hope this guide helped someone who was faced with a situation like this, good luck in the world, people!