What do I do if someone blind walks into my store?

April 19, 2010
  • Ask if the person needs assistance.  If they say “no thank you”, treat the person as you would any other customer.  They probably can see well enough to find what they are looking for or are familiar enough with the store to find what they need.
  • If the person would like assistance, ask if they would like to follow you or if they prefer sighted guide.  If they prefer sighted guide, allow them to hold onto your arm above your elbow.  The person can then follow you body movements and anticipate turns, steps, etc.  If you are walking down a narrow aisle, simply move your guiding arm behind you and mention that the area is narrow.  If the customer is using a guide dog, stand on the person’s right side as guide dogs are always used on the left.
  • When describing an item to a customer, allow them to feel it. Do not be afraid to talk about the colors, as most of your customers will either know what colors look like or know what colors they are looking for.  The more precise you are in your description, the more satisfied your customer will be.  Many people will only need assistance with reading the price tag or care instructions.
  • If someone is trying on clothes, and if they ask for an opinion, be honest.  If you don’t think something looks  good, they will appreciate hearing it before they make the purchase rather than at the office from a co-worker.
  • People who are blind or visually impaired usually have a method for identifying their money.  However, when counting back money to someone, you will want to identify the denominations of the bills, so they can put the money away in an organized manner.
  • If someone is traveling with a dog guide, ignore the dog completely.  The dog is working, and any distraction might put the person in jeopardy.
  • Don’t be afraid to use words like “look” or “see”.  These words are part of everyone’s vocabulary, and it would be awkward for you to eliminate the from usage.  Speak in a normal tone of voice.  Most people who are blind are not hearing impaired.  If they are with a friend, speak directly to your customer and don’t use the friend as the go-between.  If you need to leave you customer to attend to something else, let them know you are leaving and approximately how long you will before you return.

Click here for information on Sighted Guide Techniques from the Braille Institute

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