How to Guide a Blind Person
The following Sighted Guide skills provides a practical , comfortable and safe means of guiding a blind or visually impaired person.
1. Making contact and the Grip.
The guide verbally indicates to the blind person that he will be guiding him. The guide then offers the person his arm by touching his elbow against his nearest arm. The blind person then places his hand above the guides elbows so that his fingers are on the inside of the guides arm and the thumb on the outside. His elbow is then at a right angle. This grip positions the blind person half a pace behind you, he can then detect any changes of the guides body movements e.g. turning left or right.
2. Negotiating narrow places (walking single file).
This needs to be performed in crowded places, narrow walkways etc. The guide places his arm behind his back and the blind person changes his grip from just above the elbow to the wrist of the guide whilst moving to a position behind the guide. The blind person then extends his arm to its fullest extent. Guide and blind person then proceed through this narrow space until there is enough room again for two people to walk abreast. The guide then returns his arm to the normal position and this signifies to the blind person that he is to return his hand to the normal grip position.
3. Changing sides.
It may be necessary in some situations for the blind person to swop to the guide's other side i.e. when negotiating a tricky pathway or going through a doorway. This may be done in a stationary or mobile position. The guide verbally indicates the need to change sides. If the blind person is holding the guides left arm with his right hand he will bring his left hand onto the guide's arm, release his right hand and place it on the guides right arm. He will then bring his left hand over to the guide's right arm and release his right hand, resuming the normal sighted guide grip on the other side.
4. About Turn.
Verbally indicate the need to about turn. Turn to face each other. The blind person grasps the guides free arm with his free hand and releases the other grip. Guide and person can then turn to walk in the new direction.
The guide should go through the door first and his partner follow, closing the door behind you both. It is important that as the guide approaches the door he looks to see which side the hinge is on. Left or right. If the hinge is on the left, the blind person should be on the guides left, with his left hand free and vice versa. The guide verbally indicates to the blind person which side the hinge is on by saying either door left, or door right. It may be necessary for the blind person to change sides at this point.
The guide then opens the door with his grip arm - the blind person can then distinguish whether the door opens inwards or outwards. As you move through the door, the guide places his grip hand on the handle. The blind person then moves his free hand down your arm, and thus makes contact with the handle and is then able to close the door behind you both.
6. Ascending and Descending Stairs.
For many blind people stairs are a particular hazard and cause of anxiety. So it is important that the guide is aware of this
Stairs must always be approached squarely. The guide then stops at the foot of the stairs and verbally indicates that there are steps up. The blind person then slides their foot forward until they locate the bottom stair. If there is a rail the guide should ensure that the client is on the correct side to use it and to verbally indicate that there is a rail. In some instances the guide can place the blind persons hand on the rail, by placing his guiding arm on it.
The guide then steps up onto the first step and the blind person follows keeping one step behind him. You can then continue to ascend the stairs walking in rhythm until you reach the top. At the top of the stairs the guide takes an extra pace beyond the last step before stopping or pausing. This then indicates to the client that the top has been reached.
The guide approaches the stairs, slowing down and then stopping at the top. The guide then tells the client that you are at the top of a flight of stairs. Use of the handrail applies as for ascending stairs. The guide then asks the blind person to gently slide their foot forward to locate the edge of the first step.
The guide then waits for the client to indicate, by squeezing his guiding arm or verbally indicating, that he is ready to walk. The guide then descends the first step. Again, it is important that the blind person is one step behind the guide. At the bottom of the flight the guide takes a pace beyond the last step and then stops.
More fear is experienced when descending than ascending stairs.
It is best not to say how many steps you will be ascending or descending, as this can lead to loss of concentration by the client of your body movement, as he may be too busy trying to count the steps.
7. Seating (Single chairs or settees).
Approach the chair centrally and verbally indicate whether the seat is facing your partner or away from him. Place your guiding hand on the back of the chair. Your partner can then slide his hand down your arm to the chair and establish its position. He can then move into it feeling the side of it with his leg and checking the seat with his hand.
8. Aisle Seating.
Maintain the normal grip position as you move down the aisle. On reaching the row of seats the guide then turns sideways and leads them into the row in a side stepping manner. Your partner may trail the back of the row of seats in front with the back of his hand (ensuring that he does not disturb the people in the row in front). The guide walks until his partner is standing in front of his seat. The blind person should then check the seat and sit down.
On leaving the guide takes the lead again and a similar procedure is followed until the aisle is reached.
There is no need to say each time you come to a kerb. Pause before stepping up or down. The blind person will feel the change in your body movement as you proceed.
When assisting a blind person into a car, simply place your grip hand on the passenger door handle and indicate which way the car is facing. Your partner can then slide his grip hand down your arm and locate the handle whilst his other hand locates the roof. The passenger can then open the door for himself and get in.
Tips for Drivers.
If you see a visually handicapped person with a long cane or guide dog waiting to cross at an intersection remember to:
Proceed as normal. Changing the normal pattern of things will confuse the visually impaired traveller, who is trained to listen and interpret normal traffic sounds.
- Be alert and aware of the person, but not over anxious.
- Do not hoot. flash your lights or rev your engine.
- Do not shout instructions.
- Do not sit and wait for him to cross - he is probably waiting for you to go!