Social tips

Two senior men chatting on a bench with their backs to the light. For me this is the most difficult aspect about being visually impaired. My eyes look normal but I cannot make eye contact or see where people’s eyes are. I just aim my nose towards the middle of the flesh coloured blob above their shoulders. Here are some tips I use that may help you.

Position yourself to have the light behind you

If you are sensitive to glare, then ask to sit with your back to the light.. It is easier to see if the light is behind you. In office meetings or meeting in a restaurant, most people are more than happy to arrange the seating, or place you in a seat backing onto the window, but it is your responsibility to tell others what you need. E.g. “May I sit with my back to the light?”
I can see better with my back to the light”.

Once again, if you use a symbol cane then you don’t need to go into deep discussion about what it means to be visually impaired. .

Introducing yourself

Meeting strangers can be stressful. You cannot see if they are looking at you when they ask a question, or, as I have experienced, you answer a question that they were asking somebody else. It can make for an awkward situation unless you pre-empt it. When I meet someone for the first tine I tell them that I cannot see faces and may not recognise them again. I say that I really appreciate it when people say, “Hi Jenny its Sharon” or “Hello , I have forgotten your name, but I am Trish” .

Close friends often touch my arm when they are talking to me and I find it reassuring. It may be helpful to ask those close to you to touch your arm or shoulder when they want to speak to you.

Walking with others

I use my symbol cane when I walk alone, but when with others I tuck myself in behind them and hold on to their arm just above the elbow. Often people want to help you but don’t know how. They may grab your hand and pull you along, making you feel quite out of control. If you ask them, kindly, if you can rather hold onto their elbow, then you are letting them know that this is a more helpful way for you to feel safe. You can move your hand onto their shoulder when going down steps.

It is usually polite to let others through the doorway ahead of you, but I dislike going in first because there may be a step or some unexpected situation. On entering a building, my eyes take such a long time to adjust to the change in lighting that I am left totally blind for a minute or two. Allowing my husband to go ahead of me is quite necessary (even though it may seem to others that he has no manners!) I ask to go through after others as it makes me feel safer and more confident.

If we don’t let others know what is helpful to us then how will they know?

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