Talk between people with and people without visual impairments can be made a lot more comfortable by following a few simple suggestions (drawn from a variety of sources: www.cincyblind.org, www.abwa.asn.au/, www.mass.gov, www.ndmig.com, and www.batchelor. edu.au/disability/communication). A few general comments first: People vary greatly in their visual abilities; some are totally blind, some are partially sighted, and some have unimpaired vision. Ninety percent of people who are “legally blind” have some vision. All people, however, have the same need for communication and information. Here are some tips for making communication better between those who have visual impairments and those without such difficulties.
If you’re the person without visual impairment and are talking with a visually impaired person, generally:
· Identify yourself. Don’t assume the visually impaired person will recognize your voice.
· Face your listener; you’ll be easier to hear. Don’t shout. Most people who are visually impaired are not hearing impaired. Speak at your normal volume.
· Encode into speech all the meanings you wish to communicate. Remember that your gestures, eye movements, and facial expressions cannot be seen by the visually impaired.
· Use audible turn-taking cues. When you pass the role of speaker to a person who is visually impaired, don’t rely on nonverbal cues; instead, say something like “Do you agree with that, Joe?”
· Use normal vocabulary and discuss topics that you would discuss with sighted people. Don’t avoid terms like “see” or “look” or even “blind.” Don’t avoid discussing a television show or the way your new car looks; these are normal topics for all people.
If you are a person with visual impairment and are talking with a person without visual impairment:
· Help the sighted person meet your special communication needs. If you want your surroundings described, ask. If you want the person to read the road signs, ask.
· Be patient with the sighted person. Many people are nervous talking with people who are visually impaired for fear of offending. Put them at ease in a way that also makes you more comfortable.
· Demonstrate your comfort. When appropriate, let the other person know that you’re comfortable with the interaction, verbally or nonverbally.