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A Simple Guide to Treating Blind People with Respect


A person in black sweater treating blind people with respect by assisting a  blind woman with her stick.

Photo by Eren Li


Living in a very diverse world requires us to respect people from all walks of life, regardless of their physical appearance and capabilities. 


Treating [blind] people with respect is an important part of being inclusive. Moreover, respectful behavior helps create a loving environment where people with visual impairments can fully live a normal life and thrive.


If you read the heartfelt memoir  by Anthony Candela,] a blind person, it won’t be hard to remember that treating blind people with respect is a must. They are regular people just like us, despite their sometimes unfathomable impairment. Furthermore, it should be a basic aspect of life to treat persons with disabilities equally and to recognize their worth as human beings. They deserve to be treated with fairness in all ways. 


Respectful treatment forms the foundation of love and acceptance the world needs. Treating blind people with respect breaks the barriers that once held us back from living harmoniously. By respectfully interacting with blind people, we understand their point of view and encourage others to do the same. Here’s How You Can Treat Blind People with Respect:

 

Use First-Person Language


When talking to a blind person, it’s best to refer to them as “people who are blind” or “individuals with visual impairments” rather than defining them solely by their disability. We should be aware of how we address them because that can be a first impression lasting for a long time.


It’s always a good idea to follow the lead of the blind person you’re talking to. If they introduce themselves using a specific term, including their preferred pronouns, take it as a sign of how they want to be called. Respecting an individual’s choice of language empowers them to carve out their own identity.   


Introduce yourself by stating your name when meeting a blind person. This helps them know who they are interacting with, establishing a clear ground for communication. When approaching a blind person, always start with “Hello” or “Excuse me” in a friendly but clear manner. We also need to be patient and attentive as we talk with them. Give them time to process information and respond accordingly. Moreover, don’t forget to provide verbal cues indicating you’re still engaged in the conversation.


Communicate Clearly


When speaking to a blind person, use a normal tone. Avoid talking loudly or speaking to someone else in the vicinity as if the blind person is not present. When in a group setting or in a conversation involving a blind person, address them directly rather than talking through a third party. This way, they can fully participate and engage in the conversation.


Remember to provide information or describe visual elements by using vocabulary that’s easy to understand. Be specific and avoid vague statements to avoid confusion. 


Ask Before Assisting


If you believe a blind person may need assistance, always ask before jumping in. Say, “May I help you?” Treating blind people with respect includes respecting their autonomy and allowing them to accept or decline your assistance. Moreover, if a blind person requests assistance, offer your elbow for them to hold onto or ask how you can best assist them. Avoid grabbing or pulling them without their consent.


Describe Your Surroundings


If you're guiding a blind person, provide relevant information about the environment. Don’t overdo it, but describe obstacles, changes in terrain, or other important details that may affect their mobility. Be specific and detailed when describing the key elements of your surroundings, especially when there are potential potholes, bumps, and other risky parts of the place where you’re at.


Ensure all furniture and obstacles are accounted for, primarily if they affect the blind person’s movements. If the environment changes, let them know. More importantly, if there are stairs, ramps, or uneven surfaces, inform the blind person about them. Specify the location, number of steps, or direction of incline so they can tread safely.


Respect Personal Boundaries


Obtaining consent and asking for permission is always the general rule when treating people with respect. Blind people rely heavily on their sense of touch and spatial awareness. Be mindful of their personal space and avoid touching them without permission. Furthermore, understand that blind people may require more time to process information because of lack of visual input, navigate their surroundings, or complete tasks. Be patient and respectful, and allow them the necessary time they need.


Furthermore, blind people use tools or personal belongings to navigate their surroundings. If you need to handle their things, ask for their guidance or explain why you need to do so. Moreover, adapt accordingly when they can move around. For example, if they use a cane or a guide dog, give them space and do not interfere with their mobility aids. 


Treating Blind People with Respect [is a Decent thing to do. All human beings should do likewise with each other.]


 These guidelines for treating blind people with respect are general rules that apply in most situations. However, each person is unique, and preferences may vary for each blind person. If in doubt, it’s always best to politely their talents, skills, and aspirations. 

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