After my last list post seemed to go down well, I thought I’d look at some things that people can do to make the festive season more accessible for friends or family members who are visually impaired. Of course everyone is different, so what I might find helpful might annoy someone else, so I’m just writing these from my perspective.
For a lot of blind or partially sighted people, the Christmas period is a lot of fun, just the same as it is for everyone else. However, if you’re out of your familiar surroundings or there are a lot of people around, tasks that people may do without thinking too much on a normal day can become more complicated because the surroundings are more busy or less predictable. So an offer of help might be welcome! And the best way to find out if someone needs a hand is to ask!
So here are just a few ideas!
1. Try to make any card or gift tags accessible. This is less of an issue if someone will be around to read them, but if you have time, there are services that print labels or cards in Braille, or you could learn to do it yourself. Just make sure that the person can read Braille first, as not all blind people can.
2. If Braille is not an option, typed messages are better than handwritten ones. There are apps that can read printed text – I usually scan and sort our post this way. Some are starting to decipher handwriting as well, but on the whole, you’ll have a better success rate with something that has been typed. Or, if you want to send a message, you could use channels that the person already uses such as email/Facebook/Twitter/Whatsapp, so the person can read your message independently.
3. Blindness and sensory sensitivity don’t always go together. In my case, they do, which means it’s hard for me to stay in a really noisy environment for a long time. Don’t take it personally if someone needs a break from the noise. If you’re organising event, could there be a space that’s a bit quieter away from loud music for anyone with sensory sensitivities?
4. Don’t let people go hungry at buffets. I’m more direct about what I want now, but I have gone hungry at buffets before because nobody offered to help and I didn’t want to be annoying or to struggle as I didn’t know what was there. You may also need to be aware of any food allergies or preferences if you’re making up a buffet plate for someone.
5. Offer to help with serving food. I am happy to dish up plates in my own kitchen, but if there are people sitting round a big table and serving themselves vegetables etc, I usually accept the help because there are so many other things on the table.
6. Games aren’t always accessible or fun! I guess this is a bit controversial because some people would rather everything is accessible. I don’t want people to stop doing things that they would have enjoyed just because I can’t join in, and I’d personally rather sit something out and observe (or look at my phone!) than try too hard to make something accessible, resulting in it taking twice as long or requiring so much concentration from me that it’s no longer fun. On the other hand, some games can be adapted with less hassle so that blind people can take part.
7. Invite – don’t assume. Just because a blind person may not get the full experience, such as going to see Christmas lights being turned on or attending a performance, they may still be interested in going to be a part of what’s going on. Some won’t – but you won’t know unless you ask. You can also build in more accessible elements to the trip, and some theatres and cinemas also offer audio description, which means the blind person can listen to an audio track of what’s going on.
8. Try to be mindful about not moving things. When a waiter comes to my table, I usually pick up my glass and have a drink. So if things are brought or taken away, nobody moves my glass. The reason I know where things are is because I remember the last place I put them! Also, if you’re at someone’s house, don’t leave unexpected trip hazards or random glasses of wine on the floor where people may need to walk!
9. Don’t overstep boundaries with guide dogs. Guide dogs have special diets. Many are allowed treats, but it’s up to the owner to decide when, how many, and what they can have. Don’t give treats to guide dogs without asking!
10. If someone has unwrapped a gift from you, it might not be obvious to them what it is! Be prepared to tell them, because whilst I will say “thank you” for a gift even if I have no idea what it is, it’s a bit embarrassing if I don’t know what I’ve got! You can avoid that awkward moment if you just volunteer the information yourself!
Most importantly – relax and behave normally! Making someone’s visual impairment into something of a big deal can actually make things more uncomfortable for everyone. Most people have strategies for getting round problems, and they can also ask for help if needed.
Is there anything you would add?
Advent calendar unboxing
Throughout Blogmas I’ll be unboxing my two advent calendars from Glossybox and the Body Shop and giving a brief product review.
Body Shop – yay it’s a body yoghurt! These are a bit lighter than the body butters and absorb quicker. This one is in the moringa scent – something that we’ve already had in the calendar and another floral product. Banana would have made me happier, but I’m still happy to get a body yoghurt.
Glossybox – today we got a deluxe sample of the Zelens Transformer Instant Renewal Mask. I’ve never tried anything from this brand, but I’ve heard great things about it, and it’s high-end skincare,so always nice to try a sample size before splashing out. The mask contains hyaluronic acid and sesame protein to plump and tighten the skin. This is a fairly small tube, but as the full size is £100, I’m not surprised! I’m looking forward to trying this out!
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