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SJHH / Patients & Visitors/ Accessibility/ Standards & Training/ Vision Disability

Vision Disability

Individuals Who Have Vision Loss

Vision loss reduces a person’s ability to see clearly. Few people with vision loss are totally blind. Many have limited vision such as tunnel vision, where a person has a loss of peripheral or side vision, or a lack of central vision, which means they cannot see straight ahead. Some people can see the outline of objects while others can see the direction of light.

Vision loss can restrict an individual’s abilities to read signs, locate landmarks or see hazards. Some may use a guide dog or white cane, but others may not. Sometimes it may be difficult to tell if a person has vision loss.

Types of assistance an individual may use:

  • Braille
  • Large print
  • Magnification devices
  • White cane
  • Guide dog
  • Support person such as a sighted guide.

General Tips:

  • Don't assume the individual can't see you.
  • Don’t touch an individual without asking permission.
  • Offer your elbow to guide the person. If he or she accepts, walk slowly, but wait for permission before doing so. Lead – don’t pull. See below for tips on guiding a individual who has vision loss.
  • Identify landmarks or other details to orient the individual to the environment around him or her.
  • Don’t touch or speak to service animals – they are working and have to pay attention at all times.
  • Don't leave an individual in the middle of a room. Show him or her to a chair, or guide them to a comfortable location.
  • If you need to leave an individual, let him or her know you are leaving and will be back.
  • Identify yourself when you approach an individual and speak directly to him or her, even if he/she is accompanied by a companion.
  • There is generally no need to raise your voice because the person does not necessarily have hearing loss. Say your name even if you know the person well as many voices sound similar.
  • Be clear and precise when giving directions, e.g., two steps behind you, a metre to your left, etc. Don’t use “over there” or point in the direction.
  • If you’re uncertain about how to provide directions, ask the person how to do so.
  • Do not be afraid or embarrassed to use words such as “see”, “read” and “look.” People with vision loss also use these words.
  • When providing printed information, offer to read or summarize it.
  • Offer to describe information. For example, verbally itemize the bill or explain what the specials are or what is on the menu.

Guidelines for guiding an individual who has vision loss:

  • Ask first if an individual wishes to be guided. If the answer is “yes,” offer your arm. Ask which arm is better. Walk at a normal pace. The person will walk about a step behind. Announce handrails, doors (to the right/left, push/pull to open, etc.) and describe the surrounding areas such as what is in an aisle.
  • If you are guiding towards stairs:
    • Let the individual know if they have to walk up or down
    • Approach the stairs head on, not at an angle and come to a full stop in front of the stairs
    • Lead or guide an individual to the rail side to allow them to take hold of it
    • Let them find the first step and then start to climb or descend the stairs
    • Try to be one step ahead and announce the last step.
  • If you are going through or entering a room, explain the circumstances and describe the area.
  • Keep the person informed when others approach or leave.
  • If you must leave the individual alone, do not leave them standing in the middle of the room, with nothing to hold onto. If they are not seated, guide them to a door, wall, or piece of furniture to stand next to. This will help the person to stay spatially oriented.
  • Before opening the door for a individual with vision loss, ask if they want you to open it. Indicate whether the door opens to the right or left and whether the door will be pushed or pulled. They may be using the door’s location as a reference point.