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Emergency Assistance Suggestions for Persons with Vision Impairments

When assisting people with vision impairments there are some basic rules to follow in order to be effective.

  • Announce oneself; speak out when entering the work area.
  • Speak naturally and directly to the individual and NOT through a third party. Do not shout.
  • Don’t be afraid to use words like “see,” “look,” or “blind.”
  • Offer assistance but let the person explain what help is needed.
  • Describe the action to be taken in advance.
  • Let the individual grasp an arm or shoulder lightly for guidance. He/she may choose to walk slightly behind the individual providing assistance; be sure to mention stairs, doorways, narrow passages, ramps, etc.
  • When guiding to a seat, place the person’s hand on the back of the chair.
  • If leading several individuals with visual impairments at the same time, ask them to hold each other’s hands.
  • After exiting the building, ensure that individuals with impaired vision are not “abandoned,” but are led to a place of safety where a colleague should remain with them until the emergency is over.
  • One of the lessons learned from the World Trade Center incident: blind tenants complained after being escorted out of the building and unceremoniously left in unfamiliar environs outside in the midst of a winter ice storm. There, they had to negotiate ice-covered sidewalks and falling glass from overhead.

Suggestions When Assisting Owners of Dog Guides

  • Do not pet or offer the dog food without the permission of the owner.
  • When the dog is wearing its harness, it is on duty. If circumstances dictate that the dog is not supposed to guide its owner, ask the owner to remove the dog’s harness.
  • Plan for the dog to be evacuated with the owner.
  • In the event you are asked to take the dog while assisting the individual, hold the leash and not the dog’s harness.