Tip #2 for Successful Interactions with Blind People: Human Guiding by Elbow or Voice

After seeing the great positive response to Tip #1 yesterday, here is Tip #2. In Tip #1, we discussed how to approach a blind person to ask them if they need help, that it is okay if they say no, and that one should always ask how to best assist a blind person.

In today’s tip, we’ll discuss how to guide a blind person if they indicate they need to be guided through an environment. There are many ways to guide a blind person and the blind person themselves may have preferences other than those I’m listing here but these are the most common I have seen. The key, though, is to listen to what the blind person you are guiding will tell you they need.

Generally, though, human guiding comes in two forms. The first is elbow guiding. This is where a blind person will grab your elbow and walk beside you. A great way to offer the availability of your elbow is simply to say, “would you like to take my elbow?” It’s usually not considered appropriate to offer your hand, though offering a shoulder if the blind person is significantly taller than you is okay.

The second form is verbal guiding. This is where you keep talking and the blind person follows behind you based on the sound of your voice. Many blind people prefer this form of guiding to elbow guiding and COVID has made this common form of guiding even more prevalent. Building on the question above, it would be acceptable to ask something like, “would you like to take my elbow or follow?”

Some blind people will simply ask for directions and not need guiding and that’s okay, too.

Regardless of which method is chosen for human guiding, good communication is key.

Bonus note: human guiding is often called sighted guide, though this is a misnomer as the blind successfully lead the blind all the time. 😎🦯

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. 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.