Communicating with partially sighted or blind customers.
Gain the confidence to communicate with partially sighted individuals
More than 2 million people within the UK live with sight loss which equates to around 1 in 30 people (RNIB). As the health of our nation changes and the rise of people who live with a disability increases, then the culture of our communication must change too. However the adaptions we must make are not alien to us, we have all the tools and resources already at our disposal we just need to tap into the awareness of what those resources are and gain the confidence to use them. Put these two things together and you can make a huge difference to someone’s experience.
How to communicate with confidence with a partially sighted individual
- My first point is an important point; don’t assume that because someone is partially sighted or blind, that they have other medical conditions and medical conditions. Treat ever individual as that; an individual because a physical obstacle or challenge does not indicate mental ill health, learning disability or other conditions that require other people to answer the question you are asking, consent or make decisions for them.
- When you are approaching a person who is blind, make your approach known in a friendly manner. Don’t shout and startle them, don’t approach in a super ninja stealth like manner either. Just identify yourself as you approach in a warm and friendly, confident tone of voice. If you smile as you’re doing it, so does the tone of your voice – sounds strange but your body language speaks your mind and when you approach feeling tense, uncertain, frustrated and so on, your voice will reflect this.
- If the person has a white cane or two white canes, don’t offer to take them from them unless they ask you too. These canes are an extension of themselves and they rely on them to provide the feedback of the immediate environment. They feel safe with their canes and unless instructed by them, you may cause upset or anxiety by taking these away from them.
- Like wise if they have a guide dog, please remember that this is a service dog and the dog is working for their owner. Theses are highly trained dogs. Please don’t distract the dog, feed the dog or confuse the dogs training by giving alternative commands. Let the dog do his / her job at keeping their owner safe.
- People usually ask me about how to communicate effectively because “how can you use body language?” Firstly don’t assume that someone who you see is ‘blind’ is actually 100% blind, many people are partially sighted and this has varying degrees. Secondly your actually body language makes up around 55% of your communication, tonality is roughly around 38% and the words you use are around 7% so between you tones and voice pitches and the words you use; that’s around 45% so don’t worry – you will get your message across loud and clear without extra effort.
- The what to say bit! Be aware of your terminology and how you refer to the individual, nobody wants to disempower anyone else nor offend them. Take a moment to think before you speak but also relax a little, don’t worry if you say; “have a great day and i’ll see you later on in the tour.” You are not being offensive so don’t go into awkward apologetic mode, just stay away from: “can you not see what you’re doing?” or “Gosh is it hard being handicapped?” Which I heard recently – yes cringe!
If you would like extra support or training regarding communicating with people who have sensory based disabilities then please contact Katie Clarke.