As a person with a visual impairment, I have had many awkward experiences with sighted people. Here are some tips for do’s and don’ts to avoid these awkward situations when hanging out with someone with no-vision or little vision. Keep in mind, blindness is a spectrum, and the things I will list might not work for everyone.
Do’s when around a blind person
As someone with low vision, it can be easy to feel not included when there is something happening I can’t see. This is why providing a description is so important. If there is something funny or weird, then provide a description of the situation with the blind person so that they don’t feel left out. Descriptions are not just limited to weird things on the other side of the room. You can describe a lot of things–such as your surroundings, who you are around, who has entered, left, or is still in the room (especially if people come and go without announcing it), images on a screen, and the weather. Another thing you can do involving descriptions is to describe yourself when you meet them. This can be at a first encounter or just if you want to share about the cool shirt you are wearing that day. An example of this would be “Hello, (insert name) it’s (your name). How are you?”… “by the way, I’m wearing an orange shirt with purple dots on it today.” This example leads me to my next point: proper etiquette.
When speaking with someone with low vision, most of the time is very helpful if you state your name first before starting a conversation. In a lot of cases, we don’t know who is talking to us unless they are very close to us. This is why announcing yourself is so important, especially if you are in a large group. If you are someone like their best friend or close family member, you probably don’t have to do this, but if you are a classmate or an acquaintance, it is much better to make yourself known before speaking.
Don’ts when around a blind person
Those were things you should do. Now here are some things you should not do. Definitely don’t throw things at us. This one may be more self-explanatory, but it is not a good idea to throw things at us and expect us to catch it. This rule is advised much more when doing an activity like basketball. Recently, I was taking part in a game of basketball with my friends, and they unhelpfully threw the ball at me. It missed me, but I did have to go running after it for a bit, which was not fun. A much more helpful thing to do when you want to give a visually impaired person something is to hand it to us, perhaps with a description of how you are presenting it. For example, “Hey (insert name) it’s (insert your name) I’m handing you a cup with the handle facing you.”
Those were just a few things to do and not do while around a person with low vision. There is so much more to this, so I will be making a second part to this, but thanks for reading. I hope some of these tips were helpful. Have fun trying these!
Written by an SBES Student