by Bob Branco
When a blind person is unfamiliar with his surroundings and needs the help of someone sighted, the method required by orientation and mobility instructors is the sighted guide technique. While walking together, the blind person places his hand directly above the sighted person’s elbow. The sighted person will walk a step ahead of the blind person in order to provide direction.
Although the sighted guide technique is the most prescribed method when assisting someone who’s blind, many sighted people instinctively help the blind in other ways because they don’t know any better. Some of these methods are questionable to say the least. I have heard horror stories about blind people being grabbed by the neck when shown where the elevator is. One day a blind person was waiting to cross a street when a sighted person grabbed him by the arm and practically made him cross.
While some blind people are timid and won’t correct their sighted helpers, they should. Isn’t it embarrassing to be dragged by the neck or arm while being assisted? I would think so.
While telling a sighted person the proper way to assist someone who’s blind, it’s always important to remember that many sighted people are totally unfamiliar with this subject. If you are blind, and someone grabs you because it’s their way of offering you assistance, you may get angry. However, the best approach is to politely tell your sighted helper the proper way to assist you, and I’m sure he’ll get it. This is known as a teachable moment.
The sighted guide technique is recommended by many teachers of orientation and mobility because it’s safe.
About the Author
Robert T. Branco resides in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and is the author of five self-published books. He is a community organizer, tutors persons with visual impairments, has written columns for local and international organizations, and publishes a monthly online newsletter, The Consumer Vision. Bob’s website, with full information about his books, is http://www.dldbooks.com/robertbranco/.