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6 Tips to Communicate with a Blind or Visually Impaired Person

Do you feel uncomfortable, distraught, clumsy… when you see a blind person? No need to worry, we’ve made up a quick survival guide with 6 key points to make sure everything goes well. Before all, stay natural and relaxed, simply start the conversation naturally and the rest will follow!

1. Speak first

It’s the easiest way to break the ice. If you speak first, the visually impaired person will be able to locate where you are thanks to the sound of your voice and will know who to speak to. Say hi to them as soon as they arrive and ask them if they need anything.

2. Introduce yourself

Even if you’re clearly speaking to them and that you’re wearing a name tag or a uniform, a blind or visually impaired person will struggle to spontaneously know if you’re a staff member or not. Simply say who you are so that they’ll know what they can ask from you.

If you’ve met them before, they may spontaneously recognize you with the sound of your voice. But recognizing a voice isn’t as reliable as recognizing someone’s facial features. The context, the intonation, and some circumstances like a cold can make your voice unrecognizable. So don’t hesitate to say your name, you’ll save time!

3. Make sure the person you’re talking to has understood you’re speaking to them

If several people are present in the same place at the same time, like in a line for example, it’s difficult for those who can’t see or see poorly to know when someone is speaking to them.

When a visually impaired person enters a room, call them by their name if you know it. Or you can try by getting closer to them and speaking facing them, calling their Sir or Madam. And if that still isn’t enough, get their attention by slightly touching their arm. If you’re not standing by them, you can ask their neighbor to do it.

4. Describe the situation

If you’re not available right now, say it. The visually impaired person will know their presence has been noticed and that they just need to wait patiently.

For example: “I’ll be right with you after finishing to take care of the three people who have been waiting”, “I’m on the phone, I’ll be right with you as soon as I’m finished”. 

5. Offer to help but don’t impose it

Nothing is more unbearable for a visually impaired person than being grabbed by the arm by a person they haven’t seen coming, being led to an unknown destination without being spoken to at any given moment. Unfortunately, this type of situation happens all the time and yet, the intentions of the unknown person are generally laudable.

The missing step can be summed up in one sentence: “Hi, can I help you?”

The person you’re talking to will be free to accept or not, according to the situation and their autonomy level. Then, they’ll tell you what they need. They’re the ones who can best tell! Just listen to them!

6. Be specific

Avoid giving indications that depend on sight: “over here”, “no, not there”, “here”…

Use landmarks: right, left, in front of, behind, and don’t hesitate to describe situations.

For example: “You’re facing a staircase going down”, “You should walk around the chair to come up to me”, “There’s a pole in front of you, you can get around it on your right”. 

If you want to know more about how to best assist people with disabilities, you can follow the course At Your Service: Welcoming Customers with Disabilities provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). You’ll be able to better understand the needs of people with disabilities.

Be more familiar with blind and visually impaired people with these articles:

8 Clichés About Blind People

The Smartphone: a Revolution for the Blind and Visually Impaired!

Everything You Have Always Wanted to Know on Braille Mysterious Writing

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Avoid giving indications that depend on sight: “over here”, “no, not there”, “here”…

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Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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