Submitted by Empish Thomas, CVI’s Public Education Manager
“Where is the ladies room?” “It is over there.”
“Excuse me sir, how do I get to the elevator?” “Go that way.”
“Excuse me do you know where the water fountain is?” “It’s over there.”
“Can you tell me where the exit door is”? “Don’t you see it; it is over there.”
As a blind person I have come across numerous times that elusive “over there” when asking for directions. It is that physical place that I can’t find but must locate. Well-meaning sighted people who want to be helpful give that standard “it is over there” response. So I wanted to take some time to gently instruct those who want to help, give more direct and specific directions to those of us who are visually-impaired. Here are a few important things to do:
- When giving instructions please be very specific. For example the bathroom is down the hall; pass the elevators on your right. Or you could also say, the bathrooms are two doors down the hall on your right. You will pass the water fountain on the left, then the ladies room is on the right. Giving specific directional instructions is useful because it gives more concrete information.
- When giving instructions please give landmarks. Landmarks, even if we can’t see them well, will help us stay on the right path and not get lost. For example, when approaching CVI from Third Street, you will pass the AT&T building with a double driveway on your right. There will be street signage and a canopy hanging in front of the building. As you approach the stairs on the right there will be some flowers and grass, so be careful. As you go up the steps you will enter through two double glass doors.
Also, with landmarks it is good to include audible, tactual or smells as part of your directions. Those of us with vision loss use our other senses to help with navigation. Elevator’s ding; revolving doors swoosh. Feeling carpet and tile with our feet or white canes is valuable. Smelling things like food help us locate a restaurant. For example, to get to Starbucks you will go through the revolving doors, then move to the left crossing over to the carpeted area and keep straight. You will smell the coffee so follow your nose to the door on your left.
- When giving directions keep it simple. Sometimes sighted people in their efforts to give directions give too many details. For example, To get to the bathrooms you will pass two antique, pre-Civil War watercolor paintings on your left. Then turn right and you will notice four potted plants in art deco design pots with one plant larger than the others. While all of this is interesting information it might be a bit much for a person just trying to get to the bathroom! LOL!
- When giving directions be patient. After you have given out instructions allow the person to repeat them back to be sure that information has been communicated correctly. If the person has additional questions or seems to not understand be patient and repeat the directions again. If the person is comfortable and you have the time, offer to walk with them to the location to be sure they get there.
- When giving directions do not grab, pull or drag the visually-impaired person to their destination. Sometimes in an effort to help, people can get a little too physical and can make a person with vision loss feel uncomfortable. When the person asks for directions just give verbal information unless otherwise directed.
Following these tips will help those of us with vision loss avoid the allusive “over there” and get to where we are going!