Because many people are uncertain of the needs of visually impaired individuals, they can be awkward and uncomfortable when spending time with you. You can help clear up this awkwardness by stating your needs as plainly as possible. Here are some tips on how you might do this in several common situations:
Tell others that if they think you might need assistance, they should simply ask if they can be helpful and how. Ask them not to make assumptions about your needs. By making this request, you are asking others for the same courtesy they would extend to anyone.
Walking with a Sighted Person
Instead of allowing others to grab onto you while you are walking with them, you will find that it is both safer and more comfortable for you to hold onto their arm. Let others know that this is your preference and demonstrate for them how this technique works. Grasp their arm above the elbow gently but firmly. Walk slightly behind them so that you can follow their motions. Let them know that physical cues are usually all that are necessary to signal where they are going and that verbal explanations usually are not needed.
Let people know what type of information you wish to receive. Let them, know that specific terms such as “right,” “left,” “north,” “west,” are better than pointing or saying “over there.” Ask clerks in stores to take you directly to the aisle and not to say “in aisle 4.”
Conversing with Others
You may find that others are at first uncertain about how to speak with you. They may address their comments to your sighted companions rather than speak directly to you. Or they may speak more loudly that usual. Let them know that if they wish to get your attention, they should simply address you by name.
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