Sunday, May 30, 2010

Visual-Impairment Etiquette

In general, guide dogs are working animals, not pets. So don’t pet them. In fact, don’t call their names or distract them in any way. Allow the dogs to accompany their owners into all stores and buildings. These dogs are trained to pay no attention to strangers while working except as objects to be avoided. Attempting to pet them while they are in harness is like urging someone to abandon a good, carefully formed habit. If the dog’s harness is off, it’s okay to ask the owner whether you can pet the animal—but don’t touch it without the owner’s permission. If you are in an environment familiar to a blind person, don’t move things, or if you do, put them back exactly as you found them. Leave closed doors closed, and open doors open. Never leave doors ajar.
Go ahead and offer assistance if you think it might be helpful, but remember that sometimes a person who is blind prefers to get along unaided. If you see a blind person without a guide dog waiting at an intersection, offer to help him or her across.
The fact that the person has stopped at the intersection may signify that he or she is waiting for help.
However, if the person says, “No, thank you,” don’t insist. If the person wants your help, offer your elbow. You will then be walking a step ahead, and the movements of your body will indicate when to change direction, when to stop and start.
Hesitate but do not stop before stepping up or down. You can say, “curb,” or “step down.”

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