Skip

Disability Etiquette People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Disability Etiquette: People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

The purpose of the Discovering Diversity Series is to assist the Director and the Pacific Islands Area Civil Rights Committee, and the Special Emphasis Program Managers to deliver information about equal opportunity, civil rights, and special emphasis issues and events. You also can discover a convenient starting point to obtain information pertaining to equal opportunity, civil rights, or special emphasis by going to the NRCS Pacific Islands Area Civil Rights website at http://www.pia.nrcs.usda.gov/about/civilrights.html.

This website provides access to agency and departmental civil rights information as well as information specific to Pacific Islands Area.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA’s TARGET Center at (202)720-2600 (voice and TDD).

To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (202)720-5964.



• People who are blind know how to orient themselves and get around on the street. They are competent to travel unassisted, though they may use a cane or a guide dog. A person may have a visual impairment that is not obvious. Be prepared to offer assistance when asked, for example in reading.

• Identify yourself before you make physical contact with a person who is blind. Tell him your name-and your role if it's appropriate, such as security guard, usher, case worker, receptionist or fellow student. And be sure to introduce him to others who are in the group, so that he's not excluded.

• If a new customer or employee is blind or visually impaired, offer him a tour of your facility.

• People who are blind need their arms for balance, so offer your arm if he needs to be guided. (However, it is appropriate to guide a blind person's hand to a banister or the back of a chair to help direct him to a stairway or a seat.)

• Don't touch the person's cane or guide dog. The dog is working and needs to concentrate. The cane is part of the individual's personal space. If the person puts the cane down, don't move it. Let him know if it's in the way.

• Keep walkways clear of obstructions. If people who are blind or are visually impaired regularly use your facility as customers or employees, inform them about any physical changes, such as rearranged furniture, equipment or other items that have been moved.


• If the person has a guide dog, walk on the side opposite the dog. As you are walking, describe the setting, noting any obstacles, such as stairs ("up" or "down") or a big crack in the sidewalk. Other hazards include: revolving doors, half-opened filing cabinets or doors, and objects protruding from the wall at head level such as hanging plants or lamps. If you are going to give a warning, be specific. Hollering, "Look out!" does not tell the person if he should stop, run, duck or jump. If you are giving directions, give specific, non-visual information. Rather than say, "Go to your right when you reach the office supplies," which assumes the person knows where the office supplies are, say, "Walk forward to the end of this aisle and make a full right."

• If you need to leave a person who is blind, inform him first and let him know where the exit is, then leave him near a wall, table, or some other landmark. The middle of a room will seem like the middle of nowhere to him.

• Offer to read written information-such as the menu, merchandise labels or bank statements-to customers who are blind. Count out change so that they know which bills are which.

• If you serve food to a person who is blind, let him know where everything is on the plate according to a clock orientation (twelve o'clock is furthest from them, six o'clock is nearest). Remove garnishes and anything that is not edible from the plate. Some patrons may ask you to cut their food; this can be done in the restaurant's kitchen before the meal is served. A person who is visually impaired may need written material in large print. A clear font with appropriate spacing is just as important as the type size. Labels and signs should be clearly lettered in contrasting colors. It is easiest for most people with vision impairments to read bold white letters on black background.

• Good lighting is important, but it shouldn't be too bright. In fact, very shiny paper or walls can produce a glare that disturbs people's eyes.