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#26 – 9 Ways to Help

Not everyone who is blind or has low vision needs help. Most live independent, active lives.

  1. We’ve already talked about Be My Eyes as a way to help if you have an iPhone. If you have low vision, it’s a way to get help from someone who is sighted. Since volunteering, I have not gotten a phone call seeking help. They have more volunteers than they have low sighted persons asking for help to see something.
  2. Donating old glasses to be recycled to someone who can’t afford to buy glasses is an easy way to help those with low vision.
  3. Many people feel awkward around a blind person. Consequently, they often avoid speaking or offering their help. Suppose you saw someone with a white cane standing at a busy intersection. Would you hesitate to say, “Want some help crossing the street?” I mean, what’s the worst thing that could happen? The best thing is you have offered your help and given confidence to a fellow human being to cross the street. It’s a good feeling.
  4. If the person replies yes, offer your arm so the low-vision person can hold on to your elbow and be guided. So often Millie commented, “People try to direct me and kind of push me in the  right direction. If I can hold an elbow, I will know which way to go.”    
  5. Identify yourself when approaching someone who has low vision. Simply say, “Hi (name), it’s so and so.” Millie often knew who was talking to her by the voice, but she sure hated to say, “Who am I talking to?” in the middle of the conversation. That was embarrassing to her. Millie could often tell who was with her by their smell, their perfume, or their aftershave. When you lose a sense, like sight, your other senses get sharper. Things like smell, hearing, and touch are enhanced. Millie often surprised me by saying, “Oh, here comes so and so.” I’d ask her, “How do you know?” “I can tell by the footsteps,” was her frequent answer. If she knew the person well, she could even tell if they had a happy step or a sad step that day!
  6. If the low sighted person isn’t familiar with a restaurant, it’s helpful to ask what they are hungry for and then read a couple of items from the menu.
  7. When out to eat with a blind person and the food comes, be sure and explain what is where on the plate. For example, you might say, “The meat is at 3 o’clock, the potatoes are at 9 o’clock.” If Millie didn’t have this kind of help, taking a mouthful of food was often a surprise to her.
  8. It’s helpful to a blind person to take them to the washroom and give some explanation of what is where. For example, “The paper towels are on the wall to the right of the sink.” Or, “The dryer is automatic. Put your hands underneath the machine on your left.”
  9. If you don’t go with them, but know that the women’s restroom is the second door on the right, say so. Otherwise, your lady friend could end up in the men’s room.

In conclusion, no need to be scared to talk to a low-sighted or blind person. Speak in your normal voice. My next blog will contain more hints.


Readers: What suggestions and ideas do you have?

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