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Helping Blind and Visually Impaired Individuals: Home

This guide provides information to learn best practices when interacting with blind and visually impaired individuals and to promote understanding of service dogs' assistance to disabled individuals.

What do you do when you meet a blind person?

A man meets a blind woman.

Tell the blind person that you approached her or are leaving her presence.  She wants to know who is in the room with her.

Speak when you enter the room and announce your name, “Hi, this is Kevin”.  Introduce the blind person to others. 

Offer your Help

Librarian is helping a blind student.

Ask her if she would like assistance--"How can I help you?"

DON’T raise your voice when you are speaking to a blind person.

Sighted Guide

 A woman is a sighted guide for a blind man.

DON'T grab the blind person’s  arm if you want to help him.  He may ask to take your arm so that you may assist him as his navigator.

The blind person will hold onto your arm just above the elbow and keep a half step behind you to anticipate curbs and steps. This is called "sighted guide". 

Where is it?

Blind woman is reading a book.

Let the blind person know where the items on the table are positioned.

Imagine the face of a clock, "Your pencil is at 4:00, your book is at 6:00... etc."

Specific Words

A sighted woman is helping a blind woman.

Use very specific words for communicating direction. “Over there” doesn’t help if you can’t see where “there” is.

Instead, use language like, “The telephone is on the right side of the desk.”

Avoiding a Hazard

Blind man reading a book.

When you need to show a blind person to a chair, place his hand on the back of the chair.  He can handle it from there.

DON’T leave doors to rooms and cabinets open or leave obstacles in walkways.  They are a hazard for a blind person.

Did you know?

Milton Young

Milton Young was diagnosed with advanced open-angled glaucoma when he was 53 years old. He can’t see from his right eye and can only make out gray and cloudy images from his left eye.

In 2013, he graduated with an Associate Degree in Computer Engineering from Miami Dade College. His grade point average? An impressive 3.93.

Braille Publisher

Did you know that Braille is a form of print that helps blind people read?  Join Joel Green as he learns how a Braille Publisher makes Braille books.

Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals

A blind woman with a guide dog.

What Tasks Can the Service Animal Perform?

Dogs can be trained to perform many important tasks to assist people with disabilities, such as providing stability for a person who has difficulty walking, picking up items for a person who uses a wheelchair, preventing a child with autism from wandering away, or alerting a person who has hearing loss when someone is approaching from behind.

Also, a person with diabetes may have a dog that is trained to alert him when his blood sugar reaches high or low levels. A person with depression may have a dog that is trained to remind her to take her medication. Or, a person who has epilepsy may have a dog that is trained to detect the onset of a seizure and then help the person remain safe during the seizure.

When Can Service Animals be Excluded?

If a particular service animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, or if it is not housebroken, that animal may be excluded.

What Does Under Control Mean?

The service animal must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered while in public places unless these devices interfere with the service animal's work or the person's disability prevents use of these devices. In that case, the person must use voice, signal, or other effective means to maintain control of the animal. For example, a person who uses a wheelchair may use a long, retractable leash to allow her service animal to pick up or retrieve items. She may not allow the dog to wander away from her and must maintain control of the dog, even if it is retrieving an item at a distance from her.

Under control also means that a service animal should not be allowed to bark repeatedly in a lecture hall, theater, library, or other quiet place. However, if a dog barks just once, or barks because someone has provoked it, this would not mean that the dog is out of control.

Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog

This video tells the story of Quill, a yellow Labrador Retriever guide dog for the blind.  We follow Quill from the litter, his selection to become a guide, his life with a foster family until his first birthday, followed by highly specialized schooling in guiding the sightless.

Guide Dog Etiquette

A woman with a service dog.

DON’T distract the blind person’s guide dog while the two of you are working together.

It would be appreciated if you would ask the blind person if you may speak to or pet her dog while it is not working (It is not in its harness).


Service Animal or Emotional Support Animal?

Man with a dog

The ADA makes a distinction between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dog's mere presence provides comfort, that would not be considered a service animal under the ADA.



 A woman with a guide dog.

This EBook explores the intimate communication between author Susan Krieger and her guide dog Teela over the ten year span of their working life together.

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Department of Human Services: Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. (n.d.). What do you do when you meet a blind person? Helping Blind and Visually Impaired People

U.S. Department of Justice. (2015, July 20). Frequently asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA.

Veciana-Suarez, A. (2013, April 6). 60 year old student blind but skilled at taking well composed photos. The Daily Gazete. 60 Year Old Blind MDC Student.


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