In this video, Caitlyn shares five tips for helping the blind one at the holiday gathering. Large gatherings can be somewhat overwhelming and difficult for blind people to navigate independently, so these are some ways you can help.
1. Include them in conversation. Blind people do not have the luxury of walking up to whoever they want and starting a conversation. It is difficult for them to pick specific people out of a big crowd and walk up to them independently. Also, blind people cannot make direct eye contact, so sighted people often do not notice when blind people speak to them. You can help by simply going up to the blind person and starting a normal conversation. If they don’t know you very well, make sure you tell them who you are. You don’t have to make it awkward, just say something along the lines of, “Hey, (insert name of blind person), it’s, (insert your name). How’s it going?”
2. Offer to help them with food. Blind people have a difficult time in buffet settings and when people are passing dishes around the table. they can’t see what is in those pans, and no one wants them putting their hands in the pans to identify the food by touch. The best way to handle this situation is for a sighted friend or family member to serve the blind person. You can either guide your blind friend or family member through the buffet line, or you can let them know what is available, and they can sit down while you go through the line for them. Just ask them what they prefer, and they can let you know how to best help them.
3. Describe things. Blind people can enjoy holiday decorations, but they won’t know they’re there unless someone tells them. You can describe things like lights, Christmas cards, interesting wrapping paper, ornaments, etc. If there are tactile decorations like snow village pieces, you can guide their hands so they can feel of them. Be sure to describe what is happening in games like Dirty Santa, and let them know what they are opening if you exchange gifts.
4. Offer to sighted guide them. It can be very difficult for blind people to navigate in party settings. even if they are very familiar with the setting, they will have a hard time knowing who and what is between them and wherever they’re trying to go if the place is crowded. If you’re going outside or to another room, ask if your blind friend or family member wants to come with you. This gives them an opportunity to move to a different area if they want without having to specifically ask someone for help.
5. Don’t make them feel like the blind one in the room. It is okay to ask questions about their blindness if you’re curious or not sure how to interact with them, but try not to make every conversation you have with your blind friend or family member center around their disability. You can have an interesting conversation with a blind person that has nothing to do with blindness. Most blind people do not allow their lives to revolve around their disability, and while most of us are happy to answer questions, we also get tired of constantly educating people. Try asking your blind friend or family member about school, work, their hobbies, or anything else that you’d talk to a sighted friend or family member about.