Thursday, July 20, 2017

What I Learned from Being a Sighted Guide

Hi folks, Lynn here. I decided to share some tips for sighted guides in this week's blog because I was recently assigned to be a sighted guide for a person at a conference in Austin. I had not done this before, but I had also been working on a written project on the very same topic. So I did a little research and learned some simple techniques for being a sighted guide for people who are blind or visually impaired.

A daughter serves as a sighted guide for her father at a restaurant. (Photo courtesy of the American Foundation for the Blind)

Here is a basic step-by-step guide. But always bear in mind that each person has a different need and a different experience. It is up to you as the sighted guide to learn and listen.

  1. Address the person and identify yourself. Tell them you are there to assist them.
  2. Touch the follower’s (the person who is blind or visually impaired) elbow, forearm, or hand with the back of your hand.
  3. The follower will choose which part of your arm to grasp, or it may be the top of your shoulder depending upon your height. They will let you know which is most comfortable and secure for them.
  4. Walk at a comfortable pace.
  5. The correct grip is important for comfort and safety.
  6. The correct stance is important for protection.
  7. Doorways – it is important to allow the person being guided to be in control of the door; they should be on the hinge side.
  8. Narrow spaces – advise the person that a narrow space is ahead.
  9. Stairs – stop at the first step and tell the follower whether the steps go up or down. Stop when you reach the end of the stairs and tell the person when you are at the top or bottom, respectively.
  10. Seating – explain which way the chair is facing and where it is in relation to the rest of the room. Also explain which part of the chair you are touching.
  11. If leaving the person alone, leave them in contact with an object.

Here are a few bonus tips:

  • Remember there are differences among people who are blind or visually impaired; no two people are alike.
  • Many people have some useful vision, and there are also variations in how people have adjusted to their vision.
  • The best way to know how to be helpful is to ask.

Here is an instructional video from YouTube that can help you see how this all looks in action:

I hope these tips will help you be the best sighted guide possible! If you have any other helpful tips, please tell us in the comments:

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