7 More Ways to Be a Better Sighted Guide

sighted guide on escalator
sighted guide on escalator. Andrew Follows/Blinkie Photography

In a previous article, I gave a brief description of what it means to be a sighted guide. It boils down to knowing your ABC of being an awesome guide: Ask, Be aware and Consider.

Believe it or not, the real danger comes when other people make huge assumptions about how best to assist, for example, by grabbing the blind person instead of asking first or pushing them into a seat when they might not want to sit down!

So here are more techniques to consider before the next time you offer your assistance.

1: Stepping Up or is that Down?

When you are being a sighted guide and come to the edge of a set of steps or an escalator, try not to be one of those people who  forget to include in your verbal instructions whether to expect steps going up…or down.

With this important fact missing, you and the person you are guiding may stand for several moments wondering what to do next – it may be obvious to you but it is not to the person with low vision.

Just remember to include as many verbal clues as possible and you will keep moving smoothly.

2: Take Your Time

Rushing is not something you should do when acting as a reliable sighted guide. You need to allow for time to not only give audio description but also for the person with low vision to interpret what you are requiring of them to do while they remain sure-footed at all times.

For instance, if you are both at the beginning of a moving escalator, never rush the other person at this point, even if a queue of people are pushing through to get past. Stand your ground until it is clear which next step you are both taking together.

3: Nothing Wrong with Going Straight

There is nothing more frightening than to be asked by your sighted guide, “Trust me” and then be expected to jump off a curb and cross the road on a dangerous diagonal.

It is less stressful and much safer to use crossings and audible lights. People with low vision really do prefer to walk in straight lines because it helps to manage the chaos involved in navigating through a hectic environment.

4: Talk to the Right Person

You will find that sometimes, people will ask you, the sighted guide, to be a spokesperson for your friend with low vision.

Although their eyesight may function properly, there is nothing wrong with their ability to express themselves (unless they need a language interpreter).

Simply said, never be tempted to direct your questions to the sighted guide if it is a personal question the person with low vision can answer themselves.

5: You’re over Where?

You may need to separate briefly from your companion with low vision at some point to go to the bathroom or to pick up the tab after a meal for example, but  don’t just walk away. Inform the person with low vision where you are going, how long you will be and where they can wait until you return.

6: Talking to a Ghost

Often, in a busy place like a café, restaurant or shopping mall, the noise of clashing sounds interferes with hearing others clearly.

Your friend with low vision can’t rely on lip-sync, so make sure they have heard you correctly, especially when you get up to leave.

It is very embarrassing to chat to an invisible ghost not realizing the sighted guide has vanished into thin air.

7: Move as One, Think as Two

The skill to master as a sighted guide is to move as a neat package with your low vision companion while you both gracefully glide through narrow doorways, negotiate awkward spaces and manage those shifting terrains under foot.

Sounds like quite a challenge, right?
But here is your quest: be present in every moment you act as a sighted guide and problem-solving becomes a joyful shared experience for both of you.

Watch this unique video clip from Australia in which people come together to learn more about being a sighted guide on the Vision-Quest and you will see what I mean…

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