Have you noticed blind students walking around town? Here’s what’s going on, and how you can help.
There is a local school for blind adults here in Richmond, and as part of their program, they often drop off their students in areas unfamiliar to them around the city.
Here’s some general etiquette outlined in the article, which applies to these students and to any blind person you encounter as a pedestrian:
- Do not force “assistance” or interaction on blind pedestrians. They are able to ask for help if they need it; if you impose, you are not being helpful, you are being invasive, offensive, and incorrect. As with anyone you meet in public, if you are worried for their safety, it is appropriate to politely ask if they would like assistance- but you must accept no for an answer.
Just as you would never touch a sighted pedestrian without permission or usher someone across a street without being asked, don’t do these things to blind pedestrians.
- Obey regular traffic patterns when you see a blind pedestrian waiting to cross at an intersection. They are relying on audible clues to navigate, and causing a disruption in the pattern in a response to their presence is unhelpful and could be very dangerous to them.
- Do not honk at a blind pedestrian to acknowledge them or say hello. This is both rude and dangerous. Use of the horn is a warning- if you use it frivolously you can confuse and frighten others, and cause dangerous situations.
While this was not covered in the article, here are some very basic rules regarding service dogs, which may accompany some (but not all) blind pedestrians, and many other people:
- The dog is working. Do not distract the dog in any way- do not pet, offer treats, whistle, rustle food at it, try to play with it, or call to it.
- You are talking to the person, not the dog. Except to navigate things like space requirements, or perhaps to ask if the handler would like a bowl of water set out for the dog (if you are working at a restaurant or business), don’t direct conversation to the dog. If you are in a business, like a restaurant or grocery store, do not exclaim over the dog- just keep doing what you’re doing.
- Service dogs are allowed to come inside businesses, under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Business staff are allowed to ask if the dog is a service dog, but are not allowed to ask what functions the dog performs for the person. Staff may not ask to see paperwork.
- Service dogs are highly trained, up to date on their shots, and nonaggressive. If a dog barks or growls, it may be doing its job and providing a warning or responding to a medical sign. Remain calm.
- Don’t take pictures of a service dog team (dog and handler) without permission. Do not interrupt a person’s day by asking to take a picture of their dog.