Tip #1 for Successful Interactions with Blind People: Ask, Don’t Grab

Periodically We’ll be posting tips and tricks about blindness and DeafBlindness. If you’ve ever had a burning question about blindness or DeafBlindness or how to best assist a person who is blind or DeafBlind, please don’t hesitate to reach out and we’ll try to answer it in this series. Questions can be submitted by contacting us or by calling the Bowen Island Accessibility Group’s Community Mailbox at +1 (604) 947-9021, extension 123.

Today’s tip is about the power of questions. Have you ever seen a blind person that looks like they are struggling to navigate an environment and thought, “I think they need help getting where they are going?” If you’ve just asked yourself this question the best thing you can do is ask another out loud: “Do you need help?” Asking, rather than assuming someone needs help is probably one of the most basic things you can do to start the interaction off right. I can’t underscore the difference this makes to an interaction. Often, in Vancouver this is not observed and it is one of the reasons I don’t like going downtown. In contrast, this is usually observed on Bowen and I travel lighter here as a result. Observing this tip allows us to respond accordingly. Sometimes we’ll say “yes please’ and sometimes we’ll say “no thank you” and both answers are okay. If someone says “yes”, a great follow up question is “how can I help?” This lets the person explain what they need. If they say “no,” that’s okay too. Maybe we’re just searching around with our canes for a landmark or stopping to listen for sounds that will help us figure out where we are in relation to our destination. Giving us the chance to say ‘yes” or “no” and letting us explain what kind of help we need goes such a long way to removing the anxiety many of us face of being grabbed randomly in public, which as I said happens often enough downtown for me to want to avoid the whole area. It also acknowledges that we know where we are going and what we need.

As I said above, though, we’d love to hear your questions and get you some answers. Let us know what you think of this periodic column. Do you think it will be useful? What do you want to know?

Check out more tips and tricks in our Tips and Tricks corner.