Sighted Guide Technique
Often, people who are blind or visually impaired need some assistance with walking safely outside familiar environments. Perhaps a friend or family member may try to help by holding your hand on his or her shoulder.
While well intended, these methods are not safe and can lead to accidents. The following skills are designed to help you and your guide maximize safety and efficiency when walking together.
1. Take the guide’s arm and hold it gently above the elbow, with the same grasp you would use to hold a glass of water (thumb on the outside of the guide’s arm, and fingers on the side, nearer the guide’s body). The grip will allow you to receive the greatest amount of feedback from the guide’s movements.
2. The grip should be firm enough so that you don’t lost contact with the guide, but not so firm that the guide is uncomfortable.
3. If you use a cane, take the guide’s arm with your free hand.
4. Tell the guide if his or her pace is too fast for you. It’s important that you walk at a pace that is comfortable for both of you.
5. Follow the guide’s movements and stay a half step behind the guide when you walk together. A good way to do this is to keep your elbow close to your body.
6. Instruct your guide to approach curbs and steps head-on, rather than at an oblique angle, so that you know where to expect the edge of the curb or step in relation to your guide’s, and your own, body.
7. Ask your guide to always leave you in contact with a landmark such as a chair, table, or wall, and not leave you alone in an “open” space.
8. If you are approaching a narrow space, your guide should signal the change by moving his or her hand behind their back. You then move to a position directly behind your guide and slide your hand down the guide’s wrist.
9. When approaching a drop off, your guide should stop his or her toes close to the drop off and announce: “curb up,” or “stairs going down.” Then the guide should step forward and allow you to find the stair or curb with your toes. If there is a handrail, your guide should always position you on the side of the handrail and let you know where it is so you may use it.
10. When going through a door, you will need to know two things from your guide. (1) Does the door open to the right or left, and (2) does the door open in or out? If the door opens on the right, you should be on the guide’s right side. If the door opens on the left, you should be on the guide’s left side. This may require a change of sides. One simple way to remember this is to be on the same side as the door’s hinges.