A career planning and employment resource for people who are blind or partially sighted

Working with People with Vision Loss

Like most of the general public, you probably haven’t met many people who are blind or partially sighted. Therefore, you may have a number of questions about what to do when you do meet someone without good eyesight. The following tips will make both you and the person who is blind or partially sighted feel more comfortable.   

  • Say “Hello” when you encounter someone without good vision or the person may not realize you’re there (for example, in elevators, at bus or train stops, at work, or when walking into a room).
  • Give the person your name, even if you’ve previously met.  It’s not always easy to recognize someone by voice alone.
  • When talking with people who are blind or partially sighted, remember that they will be interested in many of the same things as you. So go ahead and chat about the weather, sports, the latest news, etc.
  • It’s perfectly legitimate to use words like “see” or “look”.  These are common words in everyday conversation and people with visual impairments use them too.
  • If you’re uncertain about whether someone needs help, simply ask them.  If they don’t need help they’ll let you know.  If they do need help, let them tell you what kind of help they need and how best to provide it. Don’t grab or pull them or make assumptions about what needs to be done.
  • If someone asks you to escort him or her, offer your arm and let them take it just above the elbow.  Be relaxed when you walk and tell the person of any obstacles, such as low hanging boughs or enormous cracks in a sidewalk. If you come to a stairwell, pause and let the person you are walking with know where the handrail is located, then proceed up or down the stairs one step ahead of the person you’re escorting.
  • If you’re entering an unfamiliar environment with someone with vision loss, share details about what you see, such as who’s there, what’s going on, and where things are located (e.g. washrooms, food and drink locations, or anything else of significance).
  • When giving directions to someone with impaired vision, use concrete terms like left or right, north, south, east, or west. Don’t give directions like “It’s over here" or "Over there”. Provide directional cues from the person’s perspective, not your own (for example, the washroom is to your left and the door pushes and opens away from you).
  • If you’re eating out with a person who is blind or partially sighted and a braille menu is unavailable, ask if your companion would like you to read the menu. And don’t forget to read the prices!  When your meals arrive, your dining companion will appreciate an orientation to what’s on the plate.  The simplest way to orient a person to a plate is to state where foods are located using a clock as a reference with the person who is blind or partially sighted seated at the six o’clock position.
  • When showing someone to a chair, place his or her hand on the back of the chair.  Likewise, when getting into a car, place the person’s hand on the door handle. If the door is already open, place his or her hand on the top of the door or the door opening.
  • If you meet an acquaintance with vision loss travelling with another friend or family member, remember to speak directly to your acquaintance — not to the companion.
  • If the person you meet is using a dog guide, remember that the dog is a working dog and should not be distracted by petting it or offering it food. 
  • When you finish a conversation with a person who is blind or partially sighted and prepare to leave, be sure to let them know that you’re leaving so that he or she doesn’t erroneously think you’re still there.
  • Use common sense and don’t be afraid to ask!

For more specific concerns you may still have , the following sections may provide the answers you are seeking: