Supporting Inclusivity of People Living with Sight Loss
For those of us with full sight, it can be hard to imagine life without it. However, according to HelpingHandsHomecare.co.uk, people can confidently face any difficulty associated with a visual impairment – all they need is “a little extra help from professional and medical experts, as well as family and friends.” Community clearly plays an important role.
If your friend or family member lives with sight loss or blindness, you undoubtedly want to help where you can. It’s natural to be unsure about how you can best support them.
Read on to discover 8 ways you can be of practical and emotional assistance to loved ones living with sight loss.
Be a buddy
If your friend or family member needs to go to the shop, accompany them and make the experience easier. You might assume that they’d prefer you to shop for them; however, many people with sight loss appreciate supported opportunities to get out of the house.
You might help by reading labels to them or directing them to the appropriate aisles. AllAboutVision recommends that you “encourage them to do as much of the shopping task as they can on their own but be close by to help when needed.”
Adapt your language
Many of our default phrases and expressions assume full sightedness; for example, when we perceive danger, it’s natural to shout “look out.” This is a useless warning for someone who lives with blindness or sight loss! Instead, say “stop” or “move to the left.”
In groups, use your loved one’s name when you address them and encourage others to do the same. Otherwise, the conversation could become difficult to follow.
Connect them with their community
Your support is very important, but it is also often beneficial for your loved one to build relationships with others who fully understand life with sight loss or blindness. These connections can be both comforting and empowering.
Help by researching opportunities in the local area for people living with blindness or sight loss. For example, RNIB has developed Facebook groups and befriending programs enabling those of shared experience to support one another.
Upgrade their objects
You’d be amazed by the technology now available for people living with sight loss. One great, practical way to support your loved one is by upgrading their television and mobile phone to high contrast, large text models designed for easier usage.
Maybe the lighting in their home could be improved. You may also wish to explore the possibility of purchasing an electronic magnification unit. These can be very helpful for reading and other intricate tasks.
Provide space for honest conversation
People without sight loss often compliment the resilience of those who live with it. However, your loved one shouldn’t feel pressure to present as brave and determined all the time. A positive mindset is great, but they might understandably want to vent about the obstacles they face.
Just like anyone else, people with sight loss need space to speak honestly about their lives. Rather than try to “solve” their problems or force them to “always look on the bright side,” why not simply listen to what they have to say?
Minimise fall risks
AgingCare recommends the following steps to minimise fall risks for people who live with sight loss:
- Use nightlights in bedrooms, hallways, and bathrooms.
- Eliminate clutter and remove hazards such as throw rugs and electrical cords.
- Replace or relocate short or difficult to see furniture.
- Create wide walking paths that lead safely and easily to all areas of the home.
Let them speak for themselves
If you’re out with your loved one who lives with sight loss or blindness, people might address you instead of them. This is fairly common, and it stems from the discomfort that comes with uncertainty: how should I properly address a blind person?
Rather than answer on behalf or your friend or family member, redirect the conversation back to them. Over time, the general public will hopefully learn how to interact more naturally with people who live with sight loss.
Ask what they need
It might sound obvious, but if you’re unsure how to help someone with sight loss, you could always ask them directly! Although these general guidelines should inspire some good ideas, your loved one is always the best expert on their own life and their specific needs.
Perhaps the best start to supporting them, then, is by having an open conversation about where they feel they’d benefit from help.
Remember that, ultimately, we all live interdependent lives and rely on the support of others to get by. A friend or family member living with sight loss is no different!
This article was written by Charlotte Murphy ([email protected]).