Tips For Maria And Her Blind Friend

I received a comment from a lady, named Maria Begona. I’m guessing Maria is Italian. She read an older blog which I wrote about Blindness. She asked for more ‘tips’. Her specific difficulty is one of communication. Her friend who is blind speaks another language. So, after promising to sleep on it, here a few thoughts and tips for Maria.

  • Audible clues are very important for someone who is blind. For example, tapping the edge of the seat, and perhaps placing your friend’s hand on the seat’s surface does not require speaking the same language to him/her. They will know what you are trying to communicate.
  • Similarly, you can help them locate things like counters in shops, doorways, etc.
  • In public areas, it is very helpful to maintain the audible communication because of ambient noise. If you want someone who is blind to come towards you, keep up a dialogue (“I’m over here to your left…yes a little further…keep coming towards my voice…” ) It doesn’t really matter what language you are speaking because it’s the SOUND that is important, not the words. Avoid an overly-loud display, as this is potentially embarrassing for someone.
  • In crowded rooms (like a party or concert hall), it can be confusing and stressful for a blind person to be standing in the midst of this. (Next time you’re at a cocktail-type party, close your eyes and you will soon realize how chaotic the whole thing sounds.) So, find a wall or something which the blind person can use to stand by. It will be reassuring and more comfortable.
  • Often, in noisy places, the blind person will not know when someone is speaking to them because of the cacophony of voices. A gentle touch to the forearm before you speak will alert them. Remember to advise them you are leaving them. You have no idea how many times I have ended up talking to myself in a crowded room!
  • Buffets seem to be popular now in North America. I don’t know about Italy (if that’s where you live), but if you are with a blind person at a buffet, offer to fill their plate. They might want to walk through the buffet line with you so you can describe the food (if you can translate). If it’s too crowded, find them a seat or standing area, and go through the buffet line collecting the food while they wait.
  • When setting plates of food or cups of beverages down on the table for a blind person, the important thing to remember is to caution them if the plate, food or drink is hot. You can say so or if you don’t know the words in their language, you can guide their hand to the area NEAR the plate or cup. Linger over it. they will feel the heat and be prudent.
  • Food like chicken, lobster and steak can be difficult for a blind person to eat if the food has a bone. You can offer to remove the meat from the bone. In restaurants, your blind friend probably knows that they can ask the waiter to have the chef do the same. Discretion is important to me, so I guess it might be to other blind people.
  • Sticking with dining tips (I love my food), I like plenty of serviettes available at my hand when I eat in a restaurant or cafe.

I once attended a dinner with a Portuguese family in Greece. No one spoke English or French. I did not speak their languages. We had a marvelous time and I enjoyed a good visit. The lady of the house showed me some of her treasures, including pottery, embroidered dresses and more. I enjoy experiencing textures and appreciating art. It’s all relative! while someone SEES art, I sense it differently. Remember that your friend may really enjoy a ‘touch tour’ of your home or a local site (like a museum or park). CAUTION! Not all textures are pleasant to touch. Nor do all blind people enjoy the same stuff. (I hate insects, so walking in the woods is not my cup of tea. I love to walk by the ocean). It’s a matter of personal taste. Also, I enjoy listening to music or comedy routines on CD with my sighted friend. It is something we can share equally.

I hope this was helpful, Maria. I will continue to think about this, and will offer more ideas or tips as they come to me.

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