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  • Writer's pictureThabo Baseki

How to Make Friends with the Blind: A Practical Guide

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be blind? How we navigate the world without sight? How we enjoy art, music, or movies? How we communicate with others? If you have ever met someone who is blind, you might have felt curious, nervous, or even awkward. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many people feel the same way when they encounter someone who is different from them. But difference is not a barrier; it’s an opportunity. Yes, an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to connect. In this article, we will show you how to interact with people who are blind in a respectful and friendly way. We will use real-life scenarios to illustrate some do's and don’ts of blind etiquette. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of blindness and how to make friends with us.

In this animated-style image, a diverse group of people stand together. One of them is wearing sunglasses and another has a walking stick because they are visually impaired. Everybody is smiling.

Scenario 1: The Handshake Dilemma

You are at a party, and someone introduces you to Thabo, who is blind. You want to greet him, but you’re not sure how. Should you shake his hand? Should you hug him? Should you just say hello? The answer is simple: just offer your hand like you would with anyone else. If he reaches out his hand, shake it warmly and confidently. Don’t be too rough or too gentle. A good handshake shows that you are friendly and respectful.

A black man in a dark blue suit offers his hand for a handshake

Scenario 2: Guiding, Not Grabbing

You are at a busy event, and you see Mia, a blind woman, looking around. You think she might need some help, but you’re not sure how to approach her. Should you grab her arm and lead her where she wants to go? Should you ignore her and let her figure it out on her own? The answer is neither. Instead, walk up to her and ask if she needs any assistance. If she says yes, offer your arm for her to hold onto. Don’t pull or push her; let her set the pace and direction. Be her eyes without taking away her independence.

animated image of a man and a woman walking through a crowd. The woman is holding on to the man's elbow for guidance. They appear relaxed and comfortable though she is unable to see.

Scenario 3: The Art of Description

You are at a museum with your friend Helen, who is blind. You are admiring a beautiful painting, and you want to share your experience with her. How do you describe what you see? Should you use technical terms like color, shape, or perspective? Should you use emotional words like happy, sad, or angry? The answer is both. Use vivid and detailed language to paint a picture with words. Tell her what colors, shapes, and textures you see. Tell her what emotions the painting evokes in you. Engage her senses through your words, making the experience rich and immersive.

A young bearded man is wearing a blue shirt. He is standing beside a blind girl, and he is describing a beautiful landscape painting in the museum they are visiting. She is clearly happy about the description.

Scenario 4: Conversing Naturally

You are having a casual conversation with your blind colleague Lindi. You want to talk about a movie you watched last night, but you’re not sure how to bring it up. Should you avoid mentioning anything related to sight? Should you apologize if you use phrases like “Did you see that?” or “Look at this!” The answer is no. Just be yourself and speak naturally. We use these phrases too. We don’t take offense or feel excluded by them. We are more attuned to non-verbal cues and tone of voice, so focus on the conversation and let your genuine interest shine through.

Two middle-aged women are sitting in a coffee shop. One of the women is blind; she is the only one wearing sunglasses. Both women are smiling and enjoying the conversation

Scenario 5: Technology and Etiquette

You are in a tech-oriented environment, such as a library or an office, and you see Aditi, a blind woman, using a smartphone or a computer with a screen reader. You are curious about how she uses technology without sight, but you’re not sure how to ask. Should you touch her device and see for yourself? Should you assume she needs help and offer it without asking? The answer is no. Respect her privacy and autonomy. Don’t touch her device without permission; it’s rude and intrusive. If you want to help her, ask first; she might not need it or want it. If you want to learn more about her technology, ask politely; she might be happy to share.

A young blind woman is sitting at a table in a library. She is using her laptop computer and is listening to her laptop with headphones.

After reading through this article, what can we say, my friend? Blindness is not a disability; it’s a different ability. A different way of perceiving and experiencing the world. The next time you meet someone who is blind, remember that they are first and foremost a person; a person with passions, dreams, and quirks; just like you. Treat them with respect, empathy, and kindness. By doing so, you don’t just enrich their world; you enrich your own, learning the true meaning of seeing with the heart.

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