Interacting with Persons with Visual Disabilities

There are many simple things you can do to ensure effective and productive interactions with individuals with disabilities. The following are some practical tips for interacting with persons with visual disabilities.

What does it mean if someone has a visual disability?

“Visual disability” indicates an individual with varying degrees of low vision. Some people can see the outlines of objects, while others see the direction of light. Few people identify as being blind. Not everyone with a visual disability uses a service animal or a white cane; as a result it may not be immediately apparent that a person has a visual disability.

Suggestions for interacting with persons with visual disabilities

  • Identify yourself by name when you approach the person and speak directly to them.
  • Speak normally and clearly.
  • Do not assume that the person cannot see you.
  • Ask permission before touching the person, unless it is an emergency.
  • Offer your arm to guide the person, then walk at a normal pace.
  • Be precise and clear when giving directions or verbal information. For example, if you are guiding someone with a visual disability and you are approaching a door or an obstacle, say so.
  • Service animals may accompany people who have visual disabilities. Service animals are working and should not be distracted.
  • Identify landmarks or other details to orient the person to the environment.
  • If you are leaving a room or the presence of someone with a visual disability, be sure to let the person know that you are leaving and whether or not you will be returning.
  • If you are not sure what to do, ask, “Can I help?”

Access Service, Student Academic Success Service, University of Ottawa. Minimizing the impact of learning obstacles: A guide for professors.