Remember the golden rule:
"It's common courtesy"
When interacting with people who have a print disability, remember to always think of the person before the disability.
Talk directly to the person, determine what he or she wants, and how best to deliver it by consulting with the person. This may sound very simple, and it is. Appropriate interaction is common courtesy and common sense.
Do's and don'ts when interacting with people with print disabilities
- do not question the person's disability. Disabilities are often invisible.
- don't regard the use of a mobility aid such as a wheelchair or a guide dog as a tragedy. Such aids give people the freedom to move about independently.
don't be offended by a lack of response or unconventional behaviour. (For example, common visual cues such as eye contact and nods
don't work with vision impaired people.)
- use words like "look" and "see"; they are part of
everyone's vocabulary. Otherwise both you and the person who is vision impaired will feel awkward.
- ask people who are vision impaired what they want or need. Do not direct questions through their companion.
- be aware that the person who is vision impaired will be disadvantaged without knowing what is going on in the surrounding environment. Therefore, talk about what is happening.
- use ordinary language when directing or describing and be specific. Do not point, or say
"over there". Direct people who are vision impaired to their left and right, not yours.
- identify yourself and ask "May I help you?" Don't assume help is needed.
- wherever possible, address people who are vision impaired by name so they know you are speaking to them.
- do not walk away from a person who is vision impaired without indicating that you are doing so.
- when asked to act as a guide, offer your elbow and let the vision impaired person follow you. Do not grab arms or push people. Allow them to hold on and follow you.
- do not pet, play with or feed guide dogs. Always ask permission of the owner before interacting with an animal.
- consider making a tactile map. The Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind can provide these at low cost.
- offer individual orientation tours.
- keep pathways clear of objects.
- don't leave doors ajar. Keep them fully open or fully closed.
- put chairs back where they belong.
- describe the surroundings and obstacles in a person's pathway. Remember to look up as well as down.
- in dangerous situations say "stop" rather than "look
- if people who are vision impaired extend their hands to shake, do so.
- when seating people who are vision impaired, put their hands on the back of the chair, allowing them to seat themselves.
- use large print signage with strong colour contrast. This will benefit all visitors.
- offer to read written information for a person with a visual impairment, when appropriate.