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Helping People with Impaired Vision

>View the Good Communication video with audio description
>Download a copy of the full transcript of the Good Communication video

People who have impaired vision come from all walks of life and are no different from the rest of us. They may be a teacher, parent, spouse or grandmother. So it is inappropriate to focus on a person's disability by referring to them as a "disabled person". Rather, it is more appropriate to refer to the "person" or "teacher" or whatever the context requires.

That said, there are several ways that you can help a person who has impaired vision:

  • Offer your help, rather than assuming the person needs assistance.
  • If they accept your offer, let them take your arm; never grab or push them.
  • Talk directly to the person; you don't need to communicate through a third person.
  • Speak as you usually would; you don't need to speak more loudly or slowly, or avoid words such as "look" and "see".
  • When you greet the person, say who you are.
  • If you're in a group situation, introduce the person to other members of the group.
  • Tell the person when you're leaving.
  • If you're leaving the person alone, especially in an unfamiliar area, don't leave them in the middle of the room. Ensure they have contact with an object such as a table, chair or wall.
  • If the person needs directions, give these clearly and precisely from where they are located. Use indicators such as right or left, compass points or clock-face directions. (For example, "There is a spare seat three steps to your left" or "Your drink is at two o'clock on the table".) Don't point or use vague descriptions such as "over there".
  • If the person is familiar with an area, inform them about any changes in the placement of furniture and other potential obstacles.

In a shop or restaurant

  • When the person enters, greet them and ask if they need assistance.
  • The person will usually seat themselves. If they require assistance, place their hand on the back of the chair.
  • Don't offer a Guide Dog any food.
  • In a restaurant, offer to read the menu, including all prices. When the food is served, tell the person about objects on the table and the position of the food on their plate.
  • Don't forget that, according to legislation, Guide Dogs must be allowed to access all public places - including restaurants and other hospitality venues. For more information, see our pages concerning Access rights.

On the road

People who have impaired vision identify when it's safe to cross the road by listening to the traffic flow. Drivers should not:

  • Slow down or stop to let the person cross where there is no crossing.
  • Stop when traffic lights are in your favour.
  • Shout instructions or sound your horn as a signal to cross.
  • Rev your engine while waiting at traffic lights.
  • Park across footpaths, as it blocks people's path of travel.