Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Training Healthcare Workers How to Work with the Blind

Visiting a doctor or any other healthcare professional can be nerve-racking, but it can be even worse if you have vision problems. I have been lost or confused more than once in large clinics or hospitals, and sometimes it seems like employees aren’t trained on how to be helpful to the blind. I think the worst is when I’m asked to fill out paperwork, and having to ask for assistance because I came by myself. I recently came across a great video that was produced by the New Hampshire Association for the Blind that teaches healthcare workers how to be helpful when working with the blind.

The video starts by reminding healthcare workers that visually impaired people are unique and that their vision varies widely. It is important not to assume that they have no vision, or that you know what kind of help they need. They then discuss the different ways the blind travel. For instance, if the person is using a guide dog, it is best to ask if the person wants to do sighted guide or have their dog follow you. Next, they discuss the importance of giving clear and detailed directions. Using words like “over there” aren’t helpful. The video does a great job of showing these concepts and others by providing two different versions of scenarios, one that is inappropriate or unhelpful, and the other that shows proper technique. The overall message is that when in doubt, simply ask, “How can I help you?”

The video is available on YouTube which means that it can be shared with anyone. I found that the concepts apply to most situations, not just healthcare workers, so I encourage people to share the video with as many people as possible. The best way to ensure that the blind have a positive experience in public is through education.

Here’s the link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlP7mCr3LmQ

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