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Basic Etiquette: People with Visual Impairments

  1. Blind doesnt mean blind--having a vision disability does not necessarily mean that a person lives in total darkness.
  2. Saying Hello & Good-bye
    • Dont assume that people with vision disabilities will remember your voice.
    • It is considered rude to ask a person with a visual disability, Do you remember my voice?
    • Identify yourself by name when you approach a person with a vision disability and tell them when you are leaving the conversation or area.
  3. Communication
    • Use a normal tone of voice (for some reason, people with vision disabilities are often shouted at).
    • It is okay to use vision references such as see or look.
  4. Orientation
    • It is considered polite to indicate your position with a light tap on the shoulder or hand.
    • However, keep your physical contact reserved.
  5. Give a person with visual impairment a brief description of the surroundings. For example:
    • There is a table in the middle of the room, about six feet in front of you, or
    • There is a coffee table on the left side of the door as you enter.
  6. Use descriptive phrases that relate to sound, smell, and distance when guiding a visually impaired person.
  7. Mobility Assistance
    • Offer the use of your arm.
    • If your assistance is accepted, the best practice is to offer your elbow and allow the person with the vision disability to direct you.
    • Dont grab, propel, or attempt to lead the person.
    • Do not clutch the persons arm or steer the individual.
    • Walk as you normally would.
  8. Do not be offended if your offer to assist a visually impaired person is declined.
  9. Service Animals
    • Guide dogs are working animals and should not be treated as pets.
    • Do not give the dog instructions, play with, or touch it without the permission of its owner.
  10. Avoid clichéd phrases such as "the blind leading the blind," "What are you... blind?" "I'm not blind, you know."
  11. Do not grab or try to steer the cane of a person with visual impairments.
  12. Always determine the format in which a person with visual impairments wants information.
    • The usual formats are Braille, large print, audiotape, or computer disk/electronic text.
    • Do not assume what format an individual uses or prefers.
  13. Direct your comments, questions or concerns to the person with a visual impairment, not to his or her companion.
  14. If you are reading for a person with a visual impairment:
    • First describe the information to be read.
    • Use a normal speaking voice.
    • Do not skip information unless requested to do so.

Blind & Visually Impaired Resources

Each state has a public agency to meet the needs of the blind and visually impaired. This agency is a component of the public Vocational Rehabilitation system. A listing of the agencies for the blind and visually impaired for all states and territories is available at the following web site:

American Council of the Blind

1155 15th Street N.W., Suite 720
Washington, DC 20005
Voice: (800) 424-8666; (202) 467-5081
Web site:

State affiliates listed at:

National membership organization of blind and visually impaired people. Services include toll-free information and referral on all aspects of blindness, and consultation with industry regarding employment of blind and visually impaired individuals.

American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)

11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300
New York, NY 10001
Voice: (800) 232-5463
Fax: (212) 502-7777
TTY: (212) 502-7662
Web site:

National resource for people who are blind or visually impaired, the organizations that serve them, and the general public. Among services are production and distribution of Talking Books and other audio materials.

The Library of Congress

1291 Taylor Street N.W.
Washington, DC 20542
Voice: (800) 424-8567; (202) 707-5100
TTY: (202) 707-0744
Web site:

NLS administers a free library program of Braille and recorded materials circulated to eligible borrowers through a network of cooperating libraries.

The Lighthouse Information & Resource Service

111 East 59th Street
New York, NY 10022
Voice: (800) 829-0500
Fax: (212) 821-9707
TTY: (212) 821-9713
Web site:

Information and resources for people who are blind and visually impaired. Publications include a catalog of products to assist individuals.

National Braille Press

88 St. Stephen Street
Boston, MA 02115
Voice: (617) 266-6160; (800) 548-7323
Fax: (617) 437-0456
Web site:

Can transcribe material into alternate formats for people with visual disabilities. Maintains extensive library of Braille publications.

National Federation of the Blind

1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
Voice: (410) 659-9314
Web site:
State chapters listed at:
Professional divisions listed at:

A consumer and advocacy membership organization, offering extensive information regarding the blindness field including the latest technology & devices. Services include:

One-Stop Centers may find it useful to contact their state chapter to learn about services for the blind in their local area National Library Services for the Blind & Physically Handicapped

Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic

The Anne T. MacDonald Center
20 Roszel Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
Voice: (800) 221-4792; (609) 452-0606
Web site:

This organization maintains an over 77,000-title library of taped textbooks, reference and professional materials for people who cannot read standard print because of a disability. Materials are inexpensive.

Sensory Access Foundation

1142 West Evelyn Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Voice: (408) 245-7330
Fax: (408) 245-3762
TTY: (408) 245-1001

Information and resources for assisting people who are blind or visually impaired to succeed in employment. Includes assistance on identifying appropriate assistive technology.

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