"The greatest tragedy in life is people who have sight, but no vision." - Helen Keller
One of the most often asked and most controversially answered questions is: "What should I do when I meet a blind person?" A quick google search will turn up dozens of answers, varying quite differently from each other. So, obviously, there is no agreed upon convention about what to do when meeting a blind person. We take the following approach to this question, which we think respects personal dignity and freedom of choice for everyone involved.
It's very simple, no rules
There are no rules, no special protocols, no do's and don'ts that can or should define this situation. There is only one principal: Blind people are nothing more nor less than people who happen to be blind. As such, we are entirely responsible for our own well-being, and are beholden to no one else for special care or leadership.
The best thing to do, in our humble blind opinion, is nothing. Don't assume you know what we need. We know what we need, if anything. If we do need something, we'll politely let you know.
Forget everything you've heard about "the blind", everything you think you know about blindness - even if you consider yourself to be a "professional." Blind people have plenty to say about "professionals" ... Especially, forget anything you've heard or read about "Ten Things To Do If You Meet A Blind Person." This advice will probably just cause more awkwardness. Most of it is made up by sighted people anyway, and doesn't necessarily represent a blindness perspective. There's absolutely no way to second guess the situation by imposing any pre-formed ideas. Even if you've known other blind people, don't think you somehow know what to do with every blind person. The thing that often most sets us on edge is to hear "it's okay. My (mother, sister, cousin, friend) was blind." Blind people are as different from each other as any two people on this earth. There are no similarities among us that you can count on. Even the degree of vision or hearing or touch that we use can vary greatly among us. Most blind people do have some degree of vision, and even the very few of us who are totally blind may use our touch and hearing very effectively .. or, we may not.
The Blind Person Must Take the Lead
Please understand that blind people have the advantage. While the blind person may benefit from some information or guidance, the one who needs help is you; you're the vulnerable one here. We have spent a life time around sighted people. We generally know exactly "what to do when we meet a sighted person." You're the one who may be flustered, bewildered, or anxious. We have no reason to be. So, relax while the blind person takes the lead.
You Can't Go Wrong
Well, you can if you try to take over. But, if you let the blind person guide the interaction, you will gently learn what needs to happen. Don't worry about saying the wrong thing, or doing the wrong thing. Just be as comes naturally, and the blind person will guide accordingly.
Thanks for considering this message.