Submitted by: Ernest Burton, CVI’s Orientation and Mobility Specialist
Sighted Guide, also known as Human Guide, is a travel technique used by a blind or visually impaired person within unfamiliar environments and in other situations. The blind or visually impaired person will use a sighted person as their guide to travel in desired environments; such as walking along sidewalks, inside buildings, shopping malls, or other places of business. I have listed some useful tips below; but for additional instruction, contact our Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Department.
- Technique Position Stance-Introduce yourself and ask if your assistance is desired. If so, touch arms with the blind or visually impaired person so that they can use their hand to grasp your arm just above your elbow. Their grasp is firm and similar to holding a jar. Their arm is bent 90 degrees at their own elbow and it stays in contact with their own body. Your arms hang at your own sides in the same manner in which you normally walk. Ask the person whether their left or right side is best. Walk at a comfortable pace. Indicate whenever you leave the persons presence.
- Narrow Areas or Doors-Always announce when approaching narrow areas or doors. Before moving through this space move your guiding arm backwards towards the middle of your back so that the person can walk single file behind you. They will extend their arm forward straightening their elbow from the bent position while still grasping your arm. Indicate whether the door opens to the left or right so that they can also hold the door with their free hand while you both proceed. Once through the narrow area or door return to the normal position stance.
- Stairs or Curbs-Always announce when approaching stairs, curbs or other obstacles by pausing at the edge, indicating whether you will go up or down and directing the person to where the hand rail is located. They can hold both your arm and the hand rail while traveling one step behind you. Walk at a comfortable pace. Indicate when they have stepped off the last step onto the landing, pause and then proceed.
- Seating-Announce when approaching seating by indicating the type of seat and whether you are approaching from the front, side or back of seat. When guiding to the back of seat place your hand on the seat back so that the person can move their hand down your arm to the seat back. They can check their position to the seat and finally place the back of their legs against the front of the seat before sitting. Indicate whenever you leave the persons presence.
Now, when put into practice these sighted guide techniques will help ensure safe and enjoyable travel for both the sighted and the blind person. Did you find these sighted guide techniques helpful? Have you ever used sighted guide before? If so share your experiences in the comment section below.