Visual disabilities range from partial to
total loss of sight. A person is legally blind if he or she sees with the
better eye at 20 feet or less what a person with "normal" vision sees at
200 feet (20/200 vision). A person who is legally blind may have some
vision, or may have no vision at all. A person who is visually impaired
has eyesight between 20/70 and 20/200. The assistance that a person with a
visual impairment requires depends on the degree of sight loss and when
the loss occurred.
A person who is visually impaired may use
magnifying glasses, enlarged print, or other strategies. A person who is
legally blind relies more on the other senses to perceive the world, but
still can be completely independent. This person may use a cane or a
service dog, also called a "guide dog". It's important to remember that
guide dogs aren't pets, but working animals that enable a person who is
blind to get to work, go shopping, or go anywhere else that person chooses
(From: "Those of Us
DisLabeled: A Guide
to Awareness and Understanding", University of Kentucky Human Development
Institute, Cooperative Extension Service)
- Let a blind person know of your presence
by saying a word or two, rather than presenting an unexpected sound or
sudden touch. When in a group, introduce yourself and others who are
- Speak directly to the person using a
normal tone of voice.
- Since the person who is visually impaired
cannot rely on visual clues to your meanings and feelings, s/he relies
heavily on the tone of your voice for these clues. Match the tone of
your voice to your message.
- Use the person's name. Otherwise, the
individual with a visual impairment may not realize that s/he is the one
- Don't be afraid to use words or phrases
that have to do with vision, such as "see you soon", "colors", "see", or
"look at." An individual who is visually impaired uses these words quite
- Offer assistance, but let the person's
response guide you.
- Be specific in giving directions. Rather
than pointing or giving visual landmarks, use number of blocks or right
or left turn directions.
- Walk alongside and slightly ahead of the
blind or visually impaired person you are assisting.
- Let the person hold your arm above the
elbow so the motion of your body will tell him/her what to expect. It is
good to verbalize changes such as curbs and steps.
- Avoid escalators or revolving doors. On
stairs, assist the individual by guiding his/her hand to the
- When giving assistance in seating, place
the person's hand on the back or arm of the seat.
- Instead of leaving the person who is
blind in an open area, guide the person to the side of the room, a
chair, or some landmark from which s/he can obtain a direction for
- Let a person who is blind know when you
are leaving. This way, s/he won't have to guess whether you are still
- When introducing a person who is blind or
visually impaired to new surroundings, give a guided tour. Describe the
surroundings (furniture, doors, area rugs); let the person touch, smell,
and talk about what s/he is discovering.
- Don't expect the person to remember the
location of everything after only one or two visits. If the furniture is
moved or other changes are made, be sure to inform him/her.
- When eating, tell the individual where
food is on the plate by using the symbol of the clock. For example, say
"the potatoes are at 12 o'clock.
- If using reading materials, arrange to
have the information transcribed into Braille or recorded on a cassette
tape. Locate Braille transcription services through a local public
library or through the Volunteer Services for the Blind, 919 Walnut
Street, Philadelphia PA 19017.
- If the individual uses a guide dog,
remember that the dog is working and needs to stay attentive to his
master. Avoid petting, feeding, or otherwise distracting the animal.
Only do so if the dog's master gives you permission (ask first).
The Kentucky Department for
P.O. Box 757
209 St. Clair
(502) 564-2929 (TDD)