an image of a blind person from the waist down walking along a grass lineHere are some simple pointers compiled by Michigan State University Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities and adapted by Society for the Blind to encourage sighted individuals to feel comfortable and at ease with someone who is blind.

When you meet me, be comfortable. I am an ordinary person who happens to be blind.

You do not need to raise your voice to address me. And please do not ask my spouse or friend, “if I want cream in my coffee,” ask me.

I may use a long white cane or guide dog to walk independently, or I may ask to take your arm. Please let me decide. Do not grab my arm, instead, let me take yours. I will stay a half-step behind to anticipate curbs and steps. If I am using a guide dog, please do not pet or call the animal as these distractions can cause the guide dog to make mistakes that endanger me.

I like to know who is in the room with me. Please speak to me when you enter, and introduce me to others. Don’t forget to include children and let me know if there is a cat or dog in the room.

A partially opened door to a room, cabinet or car can be a hazard to me. Please give me a warning.

If the two of us are talking and something else catches your attention, please verbally excuse yourself before leaving the conversation. Simply walking away when I am talking can leave me initially unaware that I am talking to no one (a truly embarrassing situation).

I have no trouble with ordinary table skills and can manage without help. If I need help, I will ask.

Do not avoid using words like “see.” I use them too. I am usually glad to see you.

Please do not talk about the wonderful compensations of blindness. My sense of smell, touch and hearing did not improve when I became blind. I rely on them more and therefore may get more information through those senses, but that’s all.

If I am your house guest, please show me around. I like to know where important things are like the bathroom, closet, dresser, windows, etc. I am even interested in the light switches, tell me if the lights are on or off.

I will discuss blindness with you and answer all your questions if you are curious, but please remember that I have as many other interests as you. If you see me around town and want to greet me, please address me by name and tell me who you are. This helps me identify you more quickly.

When you see me approaching in a hallway or other common area, please do not stop talking to those around you or otherwise become silent. Doing so may cause me to bump into you as your silence does not warn me of your presence. Instead, keep talking as normal or say “hello” if you prefer.

If we are interacting individually or in a small group, please look my way when you speak to me; I am aware of your eye contact.

an image of a man and woman couple shopping in a Bed Bath and Beyond with their white canesDo not think of me as “Just a blind person.” I am just a person who happens to be blind. Blindness is not my only characteristic, it is just one of many features that make me who I am.

In all fifty states, the law requires drivers to yield the right of way when they see a white cane or guide dog. Only the blind may carry white canes. Certified guide dogs that are in a harness are allowed in all public places including grocery stores, restaurants and hospitals. You see more blind persons today walking alone, not because there are more of us, but because more of us have learned to make our own way.