Do you know what to do if you met a blind person on the street or in a public setting? You may see someone with the blind cane and want to help but are unsure about how to do it. You may even instinctively react and then worry whether or not that was the right thing to do. Either way, it’s a thousand times more pleasant to provide help than to be in a situation where you need it so here is some of the etiquette surrounding helping blind people.
Crossing The Road
The golden rule that always applies before you do anything is to ask a blind person if you can help. This way you show that you respect their freedom and their personal boundaries, imagine if someone came straight up to you and started touching you without asking! Imagine this, a blind man waits on the side of the street, for a bus or tram. An unknown “helper” grabs them by the hand and drags them to the opposite side of the street to “help them” only to have the blind man finally explain that they didn't want to cross the road at all, they were just waiting for the tram. In a panic, the “helper” leaves and now the blind man is disorientated, often from his starting point and unsure how to continue. It's always better to ask: "Could I perhaps help you cross the street?" and in the case of an affirmative answer, offer them your hand.
This can often be a tricky situation, particularly on trains or buses where there are gaps or steps to reach the safe pavement. While blind people are normally able to communicate with the driver and ask for assistance, some may find this embarrassing and try to struggle on their own. In the event you see this, simply ask if they want some help and then guide their hands to the metal railing either on the door or beside it so they can measure the distance with their cane as normal.
Here are some other quick do’s and don’ts for blind etiquette:
- Mention when you enter a room (or if you are leaving)
- Ask them before attempting to touch or help them
- Shake their hand when you meet them
- Worry if you say verbs such as “look” or “see” they don’t take it personally (unless you are asking them to look or see!)
- Start helping them and then suddenly stop, commit or don’t!
- Treat them any differently, talk and communicate with them as you would anyone else
It is important to remember that blind people are not second-class citizens and therefore you should treat them with the same respect. Hopefully these etiquette rules have given you some insight in the event you encounter a blind person in need.