Extending a Helping Hand – Literally

My good friend and fellow Metro Blenz News Squad teamate Bonnie Sainsbury wrote a great post the other day about the Ask Me! button campaign that will alert visitors to Vancouver’s Olympic Games that the wearer of the Ask Me! button is friendly, approachable and helpful.  It’s a wonderful way to break the ice for people who may feel shy or intimidated at the thought of talking to strangers, and I encourage everyone to read Bonnie’s post and pick up a button.

But not everyone will be able to see those buttons.  Blind and visually impaired people like me, and many seniors with failing eyesight won’t be aware that you’re there to lend a helping hand.  So, here are a few things you can do to help:

  • Remember that blind or visually impaired people aren’t always identifiable by a dog guide or white cane.  If you see someone who looks lost or uncomfortable crossing the street, or is having problems reading street signs or addresses, chances are they may have trouble seeing.
  • Approach the person, and touch their arm lightly, and ask in a normal tone of voice if you can help at all. Don’t yell.  We’re blind, not deaf:-)
  • Let the person take YOUR arm so you can guide them. Many people think they need to grab the blind person’s arm, which means that you’re dragging them around.  That’s very disorienting.
  • If the person is using a white cane, don’t grab the cane and pull him/her along.  I’m serious.  It happens.
  • If the person has a dog guide, don’t distract the dog by talking to it or petting it.  A dog guide is a working dog.
  • If the person requires directions, make them very concise.  And don’t point in a direction.  It won’t help most of us.
  • The phone number for the Vancouver branch of the Canadian Nantional Institute for the Blind is (604) 431-2121. Keep it handy.

Hope this helps.  Feel free to ask me or the CNIB for help.

Let’s make the Games memorable for everyone.

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