Tips for Acting as a Sighted Guide
“Whoever guides a Blind person for 40 steps, Paradise is certain for him.”
[A hadith related by al-Baihaqi and al-Tabrani and considered to have a good (hasan) chain]
Here is a practical guide on how to help a visually impaired person, whether female or male, such that they can effectively move within their environment in a safe and secure manner.
How to offer assistance: Approach by identifying yourself and then ask whether the person would like assistance. You might find that they can manage without your assistance but nonetheless, it’s always good to ask.
Tip: You may need to give the person with visual impairment a soft touch in order for him or her to identify that you are directing your conversation to them.
Positioning: In case help is needed, touch the back of their hand with the back of your hand, which will allow the person with visual impairment to hold onto your arm just above your elbow. You can now walk freely with your arm at your side. The person who is visually impaired will walk a half-step behind you and will read and follow the movements of your body as you walk, so make sure that you keep the arm that they are holding onto close to your body.
Walking: While walking through a narrow area, mention to the person you are guiding that you are about to enter a narrow area, then move your arm behind your back so that the visually impaired person knows to walk behind you.
Steps and stairs: When approaching steps or an escalator, talk to the person you are guiding explaining which way the steps are going – up or down. If there is a handrail, ask the person if they want to use it. If so, walk up or down the steps in front of the person. Let the person know when you come to the landing or to the last step.
Pavements: When you reach a pavement, make sure you both face the footpath horizontally, step up before the person you are guiding and the person will step directly after you.
Doors: When passing through a set of doors, open the door with the hand of the arm that the person with visual impairment is holding onto. This allows the visually impaired person to feel the door and hold it after you, thus allowing him or her to pass safely.
Sitting: When helping a person with visual impairment to take a seat, you need to place her/his hand on the back of the chair and he or she would be able to manage. However, for taking a seat on soft chairs you would need to let the visually impaired person feel the seat and then he or she would be able to manage by themselves.
Cars: While getting into a car, place the hand of the person you are escorting on the car door handle. Then he or she would be able to open the car door and get into the car safely.
Communication: You may wish to talk while you are walking explaining where you are going, what you are passing, and obstacles that you are avoiding.
When you want to direct your conversation toward a person with visual impairment, make sure to mention his/her name, so he or she will identify that you are directing your conversation to him or her. Alternatively, you may wish to give a soft touch so he or she knows that you are addressing him or her.
In a group meeting or in a gathering, use names whilst speaking so the person with visual impairment knows who is speaking to whom, and who is saying what.
Let the person with visual impairment know when you leave and when you come back.
Make sure that the person with visual impairment is aware where he or she is when you want to leave him or her.