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How to Properly Guide a Visually Impaired Person Outside

July 21, 2020

A visually impaired man using a white cane to cross the street. A sighted guide is walking next to the visually impaired man.

People who are visually impaired are everyday people. While people who are visually impaired may need help from time to time, it is important to allow them the freedom to navigate their surroundings in a way that works best for them. Listed below are good practices to follow when interacting with someone who is visually impaired.

Ask First
First and foremost, it is important that you do not assume someone needs or wants your help. Always ask if they need help. Close your eyes and imagine having a person randomly pulling you around, it is uncomfortable and that is why asking first is a great first step.

Announcing Your Surroundings
If the person accepts your help, allow them to hold your arm above the elbow. This allows them to follow you in a way that is comfortable for them. From there, be sure to walk a half step ahead of the person and be sure to announce any nearby obstacles ahead of time.

Always Introduce Yourself
When walking up to a visually impaired person, be sure to introduce yourself to them. Even if they know you, they may not recognize you by voice alone. In that same vein, be sure to verbally announce when you leave so the person who is visually impaired does not continue a conversation.

Guide Dogs
If the visually impaired person has a guide dog, it important to have proper etiquette around the guide dog. While the dog may look cute and friendly, they are working. Distracting them makes it harder for them to focus on their surroundings, putting their owner in danger.

Dropping Them Off
When dropping someone off, make sure to leave them a landmark, and tell them about any possible obstacles or changes they should be prepared for.

With a bit of time, compassion, and understanding, you can best assist the visually impaired in a way that gives them the most freedom and dignity.