The Sighted Guide Technique

The Sighted Guide Technique

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.

Sighted Guide Technique

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

Related: Should Blind Students be Mainstreamed?

2 thoughts on “The Sighted Guide Technique

  1. I think most of us get frightened rather than angry when we are grabbed unexpectedly. Either that or we get annoyed by the frequency with which our space is invaded. Put yourself in the shoes of a blind pedestrian for a moment. How would you feel if you were suddenly grabbed out of nowhere by a stranger on the street? Good intentions are honorable, but we all know where they lead. The majority of blind people try to be polite, but sometimes frustration or fear get the best of even the most mannerly among us. Asking if you can help, and then how, and following directions is always the best approach.

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