While most people who are visually impaired have some vision, you shouldn't assume that your friend or relative can make out where you are and what you're doing when you are in the same room. Here are some helpful guidelines that can make communication between you more comfortable:
- When greeting a friend who is blind or visually impaired, don't forget to identify yourself. For example, "Hi, Jane, it's Sophia."
- Speak directly to your friend or relative who is visually impaired, not through an intermediary.
- Speak distinctly, using a natural conversational tone and speed. Unless the person has a hearing impairment you do not need to raise your voice.
- Address your friend or relative by name, so he will immediately know that you are talking to him rather than someone who happens to be nearby.
- As soon as a friend, relative, or stranger who is blind or visually impaired enters a room, be sure to greet the person by name. This alerts her to your presence, avoids startling her, and eliminates uncomfortable silences.
- Be an active listener. Give the person opportunities to talk. Respond with questions and comments to keep the conversation going. A person who is visually impaired can’t necessarily see the look of interest on your face, so give verbal cues to let him or her know that you are actively listening.
- Always answer questions and be specific or descriptive in your responses.
- Say when you are leaving and where you are going if it is appropriate, for example, going to the kitchen to get a drink of water.
- Indicate the end of a conversation with a person who is totally blind or severely visually impaired to avoid the embarrassment of leaving the person speaking when no one is actually there.