Tips for Dealing with People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
Some of our patients say they feel awkward when meeting a blind or severely visually impaired person. Suddenly, they say, every conversational gambit becomes a potential foot in the mouth. Our first bit of advice? Relax. Don’t worry if you mention the ballgame you (oops) watched last night or the movie you just saw. Talking about everyday things isn’t going to make you seem insensitive. Just be yourself.
Having said that, however, there certainly are some things you can do to make things easier for both of you:
- When you start up a conversation, even if you’ve met before, introduce yourself by name. It can be hard to recognize voices, especially in a crowd.
- Make eye contact, just as you would when talking to a sighted person. It’s obvious, from the way your voice sounds, when you’re looking around the room instead of at the person you’re talking to.
- For heaven’s sake, don’t speak louder than normal. This happens more often than you might think; some people have a tendency to shout at blind people, as if a certain decibel level were all that’s needed to penetrate the vision problem. Remember, it’s their vision that’s impaired, not their hearing. Chances are, their ears work just fine.
- Because your hand gestures won’t be seen, be more descriptive in your conversation; take time to draw a verbal picture.
- If you’re ending a conversation, say something to that effect.
- Always announce yourself when you are entering or leaving a room. Your acquaintance won’t be able to see you come in or walk away.
- When walking with a visually impaired person, offer your arm for assistance. Never pull or steer; this can lead to accidents. When you’re approaching a chair to help the person sit down, gently take his or her hand and touch it to the seat, arms, and back of the chair for orientation. At a meal, describe the table and the location of the plate, glass, and utensils. Some people appreciate it if someone tells them where the food is located on the plate as it relates to a clockface (for example, “The chicken is at six o’ clock”).
- Just rearranged your living room? Speak up, your visually challenged friend will need to make a new mental picture of the room he or she will be navigating.
- Finally, be honest. If you feel awkward in a new situation and are not sure how to act or be of help-a crowded train or street corner, for instance-just say so. Chances are you’ll both be glad you did.
If someone close to you experiences any of the following symptoms below, contact an ophthalmologist http://www.glaucoma-assocation.com/missouri/ who specializes in glaucoma and qualified to perform trabeculectomies:
- hazy vision
- the appearance of rainbow-colored circles around bright lights,
- severe eye and head pain,
- nausea or vomiting (accompanying severe eye pain),
- (especially) sudden sight loss