Guide 5: Successfully communicating with visually impaired people

Previous modules helped us assess the approach to and entry into the library, and then navigating around it.

This one looks at some basic good practice in communicating with visually-impaired people. Again, these tips should also improve communication with everyone.

  • A lot of the time, we talk to people ‘on the go’, throwing comments over our shoulder as we go off to another part of the library. For many library users, this can be confusing and disconcerting, so consider staying still and communicating directly to the person.
  • Think about the area that you are using to speak to them. Is it noisy and full of hustle and bustle? It might be worth moving aside to somewhere quieter.
  • Consider lighting: if there is sunlight or artificial light shining in your face or their face, this will make it difficult for someone who still has some level of sight to see you properly, so think about the setting.
  • If a visually-impaired person wants directions to another part of the library, consider accompanying them – certainly don’t just point and say “it’s over there”!
  • Guiding people: the RNIB Ten tips to guiding a person with sight loss, has some useful tips:
  1. Always offer assistance first, not everyone will need help
  2. Introduce yourself – ask the person where they want to go and how they wish to be guided
  3. Ensure you are one step ahead of the person you are guiding
  4. Give instructions where necessary but don’t overdo it
  5. Be aware of hazards at ground level and at head height
  6. When guiding, give information about the people who are present and the environment as you move around
  7. Explain your actions
  8. When approaching seating, tell the person where the seat is and guide their hand to the back and seat of the chair, so that they can sit down independently
  9. Remember to allow extra space around obstacles
  10. Remember if someone is blind, it doesn’t always mean they have no sight at all.

Other resources:

RNIB. How to guide people with sight problems

RNIB. Ten tips to help you communicate with a person with sight loss