Hanging Out with a Blind Friend

May 20, 2013

If you have a friend or classmate who happens to be blind, we would like to help you interact more comfortably with him. We don't pretend to have all the answers, but looking at a few of our guidelines may make things a little easier for you both. You probably have a few questions you're a little shy about asking, so let's see if we can answer those for you.

Remember, the below suggestions are just guidelines, not absolutes written in stone. Don't allow your relationship with a blind person to be governed by an unyielding set of rules. Don't be so concerned about all the Do's and Don't's that you can't have a normal conversation, meal, or trip together. Chat with your friend about what works best for him or her, and go from there. Above all, just be yourself, and everything should work out fine.

1. Say Hello

Always make your presence known to a blind person, and identify yourself when entering a room if needed.

2. Use Names

In a group, always address a blind person by name if you are speaking directly to him, or if you are expecting a reply. Otherwise, he may not know that you are speaking to him.

3. Don't Move Things

When visiting your friend at his home, put things back exactly where you found them.

4. Mind the Door

Leave closed doors closed, and open doors open. Never leave doors ajar.

5. Guide Respectfully

When guiding a blind person, always offer your arm to her. Never grab her arm or push her ahead or into a chair.

6. Find the Handle

When you get to the car, place her hand on the outside door handle, and let her take it from there. This helps her know which way the car is facing, as well as avoiding running into an open door.

7. Direct where Needed

When entering a crowded place such as a restaurant, offer your elbow before going in. Try to give good directions, such as "Watch the table on your right." When you get to your table, place his hand on the back of the chair so that he can be seated without further assistance.

8. Describe the Food

When sitting down to a meal, use an imaginary clock to describe the placement of the food on the dish. "Your bun is at 12 o'clock, the mashed potatoes are at 3, and the roast is at 6."

9. Speak Up

Don't hesitate to tell a blind person that he has egg on his shirt or that his tie is in his soup. Do so in a matter-of-fact tone of voice and let him deal with the problem himself.

10. Help at the Cashier

When it's time to sign the receipt, fold the paper on the signature line so she knows where to write her name. When handing money to her, separate all the bills into denominations and specify whether they are ones, fives, and so on. Of course, coins can be identified by touch.