As the sighted guide, first offer the visually impaired person assistance. Ask if assistance is as a guide is required or if they are able to follow you visually to their intended location. Then, if the individual accepts your offer of sighted guide offer your arm by touching the back of their hand with your hand. Then, have them slide their hand up above your elbow. Keep your arm bent and near your body. Instruct the person you are guiding to keep their arm close to their side. They should stay approximately one step behind you, their guide. This allows you as the guide to protect the visually impaired individual while walking.
Steps and Curbs
As a guide, you should always approach steps, curbs, and chairs straight on. This will help in reducing missteps and potential falls. Pause briefly and verbally let the visually impaired person know there is a change coming, thus allowing the visually impaired person to find their balance. Encourage the visually impaired individual to slide their foot forward to find the edge of a step or a curb. Step down or up after they have have located the edge. The guide should always step either up or down steps and curbs first and have the visually impaired person follow.
Walk in a relaxed manner, allowing the visually impaired person to set the pace. It’s always better to start slowly and then let the visually impaired person let you know if they want to go faster. Remember to talk to the person that you are guiding. Use terms like: going up, down, left, right, stairs, curb, etc. Using concrete directions helps to keep the person you are guiding better oriented. Try not to use vague terms like: over here, over there, this way, etc. People that are visually impaired have difficulty in relating to those terms. Try and think about what directions would make sense to you if you couldn’t see the world around you.
This is just a brief introduction to sighted/human guide. If you are interested in learning more about being a sighted guide and guiding techniques, check out these websites and videos.
The American Foundation for the Blind: Introduction to the sighted guide technique
The Tandem Project Sighted Guide Training
RNIB: Supporting people with sight loss: How to guide a blind or partially sighted person
Don Felthouse is has served the blind community and fellow Veterans for nearly 50 years first in the Navy and then at the American Lake VA Blind Rehabilitation Center. Don is happily retired and as busy as ever.