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Blindness etiquette

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When we connect with those who are blind and engage them in our lives and communities, everyone is better for it. Don’t avoid connections because you don’t know what to say or how to act around someone who’s blind.

It doesn’t have to be awkward. Here are some tips to help you make rewarding connections with people around you who have sight loss:

Be natural

When you’re talking to someone who’s blind, act like you normally would with anybody. 

  • Introduce yourself by name and wait for them to offer their hand to be shaken.
  • Speak in a normal tone, speed and volume.
  • Address them directly. Don’t just talk to the person they’re with or, in the case of someone who’s Deafblind, their intervenor.
  • Feel free to use sight-related phrases like “see you later” or “watch out.”

Be inclusive

Include people who are blind in activities and events. The probably enjoy the same things you do – they just do them differently. 
Keep accessibility in mind so a person who is are blind can participate on an equal footing. This may mean making sure a physical space is free of clutter and hazards, or having printed materials available in the person’s format of choice.

Be considerate

  • Don’t make someone who’s blind guess your voice. Introduce yourself by name every time you greet them. 
  • Offer to be a sighted guide when in a new, unfamiliar or crowded environment. But never assume someone needs a guide. Never grab them without permission.
  • Never pet or distract a working guide dog.

Be descriptive

Giving someone who’s blind descriptive cues can help make things, places and social situations more accessible.

  • Verbally acknowledge when someone has entered or left a room or a conversation. Around a table, do introductions to identify who’s sitting where. 
  • When you’re giving directions, be as specific as you can. Instead of saying, “The door is over there,” say: “The door is on your right, about 20 feet down the hallway.”

At meals, describe how food is arranged on the plate. Use the face of a clock as a reference: “Your salad is at four o’clock and your steak is at 10 o’clock.”