During renovation of streets In Liepaja, raised guidelines are deposited into the sidewalks in order to aid visually impaired people with getting around.
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Ganību street 197/205 Liepaja,
LV – 3407
17.11.2009 Author: LNB
Do you know how to behave when you meet a blind person?
Maybe he needs a help?
But how to help?
Perhaps many of us directly ignorance ever discouraged reach out toward blind people, but maybe at that time, this assistance has been very necessary…
Remember, that your help may be needed not only totally blind, but also for visually impaired people – for example, at night or in unfamiliar place for him. Therefore in this booklet name „blind” in many places attributed to both completely blind and visually impaired people.
Remember, that the official blind marking plate all around the world is the white stick (but, of course, that blind people it may not be)
Always first ask if your help is needed!
So that blind people could navigate in the environment, he needs precise guidance. There will be no point, if you will wave with hand in the required direction or say. „It is there, on that side!” Better say: „In front of you is bench” or „One meter to the right of you is located…”
Definitely inform people, that you leave, otherwise after a moment he will have to find out that continues conversation with blank space. Believe it isn’t pleasant discovery.
Don’t increase the voice when talking to the blind. “Blind” usually isn’t synonymous to the word “deaf”. However, if the person has also hearing impairment, to draw attention, touch easy to his hand, speak clearly and slowly. Don’t yell! If people hear better with one ear, escort him from that side. If verbal communication is not possible, maybe person understands messages, which writing in his hand: with index finger write in his palm uppercase letters.
If the blind is one of your work colleague or family member, then remember, in usual situation blind person is moving safely, finds the necessary places and objects, can take care of themselves. Therefore, don’t disassemble the usual order of things, don’t move the furniture without telling it to blind, don’t leave him on the way any things – don’t make to him cumbersome situation.
In a conversation with the blind people sometimes consciously avoid to, use words “see, watch, blind”. Blind uses and perceive word “see”, to express with that his “seeing” way – namely, feel, palpating etc. But in conversation wouldn’t be advisable to use word “blind” – for many it causes negative emotions.
Starting to speak with the blind, unless your voice isn’t well known to him, call your name and shortly explain who you are. Blind wants to know with who he is talking. Blind people don’t like if around him silently walks unknown people. On street, in vehicle noise, in room, where are carpets or playing music, cafe, crowd, etc., the blind is difficult to grasp if next to him is his interlocutor. Therefore we again remind – always warn the blind of your leaving or coming.
Tell what is going on around – blind people can be hard to understand, for example, about what suddenly all are started to laugh or from where comes abnormal noise.
If you want to turn to the blind, which is together with another human, start to speak directly with the blind person not with his attendant, call him in name (if you know him), or easy touch him (if you don’t know him) – then the blind will know, that you speak with him. Contact with eye help isn’t possible.
During the meal ask, if the blind need some help (for example, pass him food, cut meat etc.). You can tell where are cutlery, glasses, ashtray (can easily knock by these objects, to facilitate orientation by sound), but then don’t start to move them to other places, without saying anything. Tell how on the dish composed food. If you give him something in the hands, then tell where he can put later the item (for example “to the left from your chair is table”). Before offer something, inform, of choices, if there is any (for example, read the menu or call all the meals, that on the table). Put selected so that it could be easy to reach. Don’t give the blind, for example, tray full of glasses, because taking his he may accidentally overturn the rest.
In locker room let the blind by himself put his items, but if you help him, tell, for example, that “your coat is hanging on the first hanger from the door”, and move his hand on a clothes hanger. Tactically point, if the clothing is wrong or on that is some stains – you also don’t want to look grubby, not knowing by yourself.
If helping blind people walk into a store escort them to required department. If he knows exactly what he wants to buy, then he will buy these items at once. If in the beginning he wants to know what kind of goods are in sale, call which interests him. If possible give him in the hand different items, so he could get to know with them. In this way he will get idea of their shape, size quality. Describe to him color, pattern, etc., goods peculiarities. Don’t hide, if, in your opinion, the particular item doesn’t mach to him at all.
Often, to sighted people need to read ahead. As for the newspaper and magazine reading, it doesn’t matter, what are interesting and topical for you. You need to read all headlines, and he will decide what he wants to hear. Respect also the confidentiality of private correspondence, if you are asked to read the letter.
If you have decided to become a blind man attendant and your help is accepted, ask the blind where he wants to go. Usually the blind is holding to sighted, attendant elbow therefore he can go safely, feeling attendants body movements. Only don’t forget to warn your partner about the changes in road surfaces, for example, transition from asphalt to grass, about pits on the sidewalk pavement, bumps, where can catch on feet (and don’t forget, that bypassing obstacles your partner need enough space). Beware also from the obstacles in head height, especially, if your partner is taller than you are.
Don’t tell: “We turn to left (or to right)”! The blind will feel change of direction from your movement.
Your managing hand (to that at which keeps the blind) it need to be calm and relaxed. Don’t start to flaunt or point to something with it!
Often in stores, offices and other crowded places you’ll have to go through narrow passages. Then your partner will go behind you, not next to you. First of all, warn partner that will have to go one behind the other. Move leading arm behind your back. Your partner must resign immediately behind you, without releasing grip. So that when walking didn’t push on you, blind grip arm (the hand with which he is holding to your elbow) need to hold stretched. Don’t twist back to peek what’s going on – is all right, your partner will follow you. When again there is enough space to go next, “pull back” your hand again to normal position, along the sides, and your partner again will go next to you. The same also need to apply when going through the door! But, if you are in doubt, if you can manage your partner through the door, perhaps easier let him go through by himself. Move aside, open the door and stand again next to him, when he has passed through the door.
Sometimes people don’t know how to warn their partner about curbstones. Simply – when you approach a border, say that it is “pavement up” or “pavement down”. Before you get down from the curb or step on it, slow down the pace, and partner from your movements will understand and appropriately respond. Also, when approaching steps or slope, tell your partner, if stairs (slope) leading up or down. If it’s possible, blind people should go to stairs in railing side. Don’t count the many steps, it doesn’t make sense! The partner will understand the direction from your body movements.
If you drive with a lift, definitely make sure, if the cab floor is stood in one level with stairs. Some people will want to stand at the cabins wall, with hand lean against it, to feel more stable.
Crossing the road or climbing stairs, need to move in a straight line not in some angle, always using the shortest distance.
If you just helped blind people cross the street and then each go to your side, definitely tell your partner exactly where he is and what obstacles are in his way.
Never push blind people into seat! Lead him to seat and in a few words describe it (chair, soft sofa, a low bench, etc.). Ask him to let go grip hand and place it on the seat backrest, the handle or the seat itself (what is in each case more appropriate) – he will sit down by himself. Warn, if beside is a table.
When getting in the car put the leading hand on the door handle and tell to partner, if cars front is to the right or left. Then the blind, following to your hand, with grip hand will find the handle, but in the meantime with other hand – roof. Then he can open the machine door and get in. If first you want to open the door then tell when they are open, and put his leading hand on the cars roof, so that in this way he could orientate. Then with the other hand blind will palpating a seat and sit down, also by himself, closing the door. When trip is over, help partner to open the door and get out of the car.
Getting on public transport and disembarking from it, attendant always go first. Be sure to warn your partner about the footboard height! It’s desirable to offer blind people to sit down (simply put his hand on free seat back), because, when vehicle sudden stops, he’s not able to always find support.
If a person is visually impaired, daily step can make easier such seemingly simple techniques like proper lighting choice, use of contrast (white cup with coffee on a dark tablecloth is better visible than glass of milk – on white), suitable strength magnifying glass for reading, keep suitable order of things for human. In piece of cardboard cut a small rectangle, there will be so called “signature card” – stencil, which will not allow, when signing, pen slime out of the necessary line. Reading will ease dark strip made of paper, which places below the line and driven down with each new line, or in cardboard strip cut window in one line height – it will prevent the reflection of light on glossy paper and increased font contrast.
These are just a few tips, which observance would significantly improve our mutual communication. Because the main – each person’s good will and desire to help!
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