A Quick Guide To Helping The Visually Impaired

A Quick Guide To Helping The Visually Impaired

Ever been asked for directions by a visually impaired individual and you struggled to answer with their physical challenges in mind?

That’s perfectly fine. With a little know-how, you’ll very quickly be able to navigate similar circumstances with both tact and efficiency.

Assisting the legally blind merits a huge thumbs up, and here are some tips for doing exactly that in a considerate way:

Always Ask Before Helping

Do not assume that someone is dependent on external help just because they are visually impaired. Not everyone desires to be watched over for every little thing, regardless of their physical ability.

So always ask if your assistance is required. Respect their right to accept or refuse, because you won’t truly be helpful without consent.

Introduce Yourself Clearly

A vast majority of people would be uncomfortable if a stranger abruptly approached them. Even more so if the stranger can’t be seen.

Announcing your presence will greatly help ease potential anxiety and let them know that you’re there to help if needed.

Speak clearly, but not loudly unless required when introducing yourself. After all, you’re not trying to scare anyone.

Address Them Directly

Never forget this suggestion if you are ever in a group setting, or if a visually impaired person is accompanied by a caregiver.

Some people have a tendency of talking to the caregiver almost exclusively even when the PWD is right in front of them.

Of course, there are situations where you do need to speak with the caregiver for clarification before lending additional assistance. That said…

Don’t Use Visually-Dependent Words

While obvious, it’s very easy to forget this especially if you’re not used to, for example, providing directions for the visually impaired. Saying that a place is “over there” isn’t helpful. 

Instead, use clear directions and descriptive words to help them create a mental map of the information you provide.

By extension, using clock directions – such as saying that an area is at 12 o’clock – is particularly helpful since it’s usually far more spatially intuitive for visually impaired individuals.

Let Them Grab, Not You

Unless absolutely necessary or explicitly allowed, don’t grab them. Simply offer your arm and announce it, and let them decide to grab it or otherwise.

The key here is to be accommodating and understanding instead of forceful. Allow the person you’re helping to decide exactly how they prefer to be assisted.

Notify If You’re Leaving

This follows a similar principle as announcing your presence. Once your assistance is no longer required, do exchange a couple of pleasantries before saying goodbye.

This will avoid confusion and help the visually impaired individual focus on adjusting to their new surroundings or situation.

These tips aren’t entirely absolute. Sometimes, a situation could be so urgent that being considerate is somewhat lower on the priority list.

That said, keeping them in mind regardless will ensure that most instances where you offer your assistance would actually turn out helpful.


Nichole Baxter (2019) How to help someone who is visually impaired [Accessed 15 January 2024] Available at: https://www.allaboutvision.com/lowvision/helping.htm

Lighthouse (2024) Rules for Assisting the Blind [Accessed 15 January 2024] Available at: https://www.lvib.org/programs/rules-for-assisting-the-blind/