An employer or coworker may feel uncomfortable or awkward when first meeting a colleague who is blind or vision impaired, but it is important to understand that people who are blind or vision impaired want others to interact with them in the same manner as they interact with sighted individuals in the workplace. Here are some tips that can facilitate positive interactions at work between blind, vision impaired and sighted coworkers:
- When meeting a person who is blind or vision impaired, wait for them to extend their hand for a handshake
- Coworkers should identify themselves by name when speaking to people who are blind or vision impaired
- Speak with a normal tone of voice. Do not shout or speak slowly.
- When there are several people in a room, such as during a staff meeting, each individual should identify themselves to the person who is blind or vision impaired. This is often referred to as a ‘roll call’ and involves going around the table or room and having everyone say their name and, if necessary, their role in the organisation.
- Indicate the end of a conversation before walking away
- Feel free to use vision-oriented words such as “see,” “look,” and ” watch.”
- Be specific when giving directions or descriptions. Saying, “the copy machine is located outside the break room to the left of the door,” is more helpful than saying, “it’s over there.” Similarly, avoid using hand gestures to communicate messages.
- Don’t assume a blind person always needs assistance and can’t do things for themselves
- If an individual who is blind or vision impaired needs assistance walking to a destination, a sighted coworker can offer an arm as a sighted guide. The guide shouldn’t grab the person’s arm and try to steer a person in a certain direction, instead let them take your arm and they will walk with you.
- Individuals who are blind or vision impaired may use a long white cane or dog guide. Do not interfere with the person’s cane or dog guide.
This information was adapted from the website https://aphcareerconnect.org/
Guide Dogs NSW / ACT have also prepared some great resources on assisting someone who is blind or vision impaired, these are available HERE.
Sighted Guide Techniques
The following video was produced by VisAbility in collaboration with Curtin University, and offers some useful advice on how to assist people who are blind or vision impaired.