Speaking with a person who is blind or visually impaired is the same as speaking with anyone else. However, because someone who is blind can’t see you, there are a few tips to keep in mind to make the interaction more pleasant and rewarding for both of you.
Tips for sighted people to keep in mind when speaking with a person who is blind
- Identify yourself and greet the person by name. Even if the person has some vision, do not assume they can see you well enough to know who you are. Greeting the person by name lets them know you are talking to them.
- Speak in a natural tone, unless the person is hearing impaired. Do not assume that you need to change your vocabulary for them, or that they need you to speak slowly or loudly.
- When the conversation is over, verbally indicate this to the person you are speaking to. Do not simply walk away without letting the person know you are leaving.
- Never speak through a third person. A person who is blind does not need translation of a conversation through a third person.
- Remember that much of how we communicate is visual: facial expressions, smiles and eye contact convey a lot of information and we need to place more emphasis on communicating through words and tone of voice rather than facial expressions and body language.
- Relax. When we feel comfortable, the people we are speaking to feel comfortable.
- Do not interact with a working guide dog. A guide dog is similar to an extension of the body of the person who is blind. When a guide dog is working, leave him or her to focus on their job without interference.
Click here to download an infographic about communicating comfortably with the visually impaired.
One of the most important things to remember is to feel comfortable. Some sighted people may feel nervous or awkward when interacting with people who are blind. Following basic guidelines will ensure the conversation will be comfortable for both of you.
Treating your conversation partner with respect and consideration allows for the opportunity to enjoy a genuine, meaningful connection and conversation.
If, like me, you speak slowly, you may have to tell the person you are speaking to that you have heard them and are thinking, to compensate for the lack of visual cues. Click here to read more about interacting with a person who is blind.
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