A visitor who is blind or partially sighted might ask for support being guided, or you can ask them. Blind and partially sighted people are very varied in the assistance they may require so always ask. Do not attempt to guide a person who has not agreed to be guided. Let them tell you what kind of help they need. For instance, it may be that they need help crossing the road or finding their way to a particular room.

 

Two BPS people navigating around Lewes Castle, one guiding the other. Photograph of BPS visitors testing out the app audio guide.]

Two BPS people navigating around Lewes Castle, one guiding the other.

Start off by introducing yourself and talk directly to the person you are guiding. Finish by telling the visitor when you are leaving, so the person isn’t left speaking to an empty space. Finally, if you are guiding someone into a seat, place their hand on the back of the seat before they sit down, so they can orientate themselves.

 

Setting off side by side

  • Ask the visitor where they would like to go and if they would like to take your arm.
  • Ask which side they would like you to stand on.
  • Stand by their side and let them hold your arm just above the elbow. If they have a guide dog, approach them from the side opposite the dog so they can use their free arm.
  • You can keep your arm pointing downwards or bend it at the elbow, as long as you keep your upper arm straight; be relaxed and not stiff.
  • The person you’re guiding will generally walk half a pace behind you. This makes it easier for the visitor to tell when you’re turning your body.
  • Leave enough room around obstacles, and watch for those at head height as well as ground level.
  • Ask the visitor if the walking pace is ok. Never push or pull the person you are guiding.
  • Keep talking and describe to the visitor where you are going Give instructions remembering to give clear directions rather than “over there”. Warn of obstacles or hazards, and describe surroundings, but don’t overload the person you’re guiding with information.

 

Going up and down stairs and steps

  • Tell the visitor you are approaching a set of stairs, steps or kerbs.
  • Tell the visitor whether the stairs go up or down.
  • The visitor should be on the side with the handrail.
  • Make sure they are on the edge of the first step and have found the handrail before you start off.
  • Set off and walk normally.
  • Go one step ahead of the visitor.
  • Let the visitor know when you have reached the last step.
  • When there is room to walk side by side again, bring your arm back in front of you.

 

Walking in single file – narrow or busy spaces

  • Tell the visitor you are approaching a narrow area and that you need to walk in single file.
  • Move your guiding arm to the middle of your back, keeping your upper arm straight.
  • The person you’re guiding should step behind you.
  • Keep your hand behind your back and walk slowly through the narrow space.
  • When there is room to walk side by side again, bring your arm back in front of you.

 

Example

Watch RNIB videos of Giles and Dolly explaining how they like to be guided and give some helpful tips on how to guide a blind or partially sighted person. http://www.rnib.org.uk/information-everyday-living-family-friends-and-carers/guiding-blind-or-partially-sighted-person

 

 

Your Turn

Read the following scenario and make a note of what is wrong with what happened, as well as what could have been done differently, to create a more welcoming and relaxed environment:

 

Sam who is blind, enters the gallery, and is instantly grabbed by the arm by a volunteer who drags her to the front desk, pulling her across a small set of stairs. The volunteer proceeds to explain what is on in the gallery, another visitor enters and she walks off to greet them, leaving Sam confused and uncertain.

 

Credit: RNIB

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