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Hints and tips for visually impaired people and those close to them

Here are just a few hints and tips that could get you thinking about gadgets, services, and different ways of doing things. All of these can make it easier to live independently. Most barriers can be overcome with just a little imagination and solution focused thinking.

Remember though, always check out with the visually impaired person themselves before changing anything – don’t assume!       

  1. Take notice of any suggestions and advice given by the Vision Services Team (Sandwell Council Adult and Community Services). They can supply many simple gadgets to make life easier. They can also provide lots of training that will improve life and safety.
  2. When walking with a blind person always offer your arm for the person to hold. Allowing the blind person to follow you is much easier and safer. Never push a blind person first as there might be obstacles in the way.

At home

  1. Always keep things in the same place. Do not move furniture or other household items about without informing the visually impaired person.
  2. Do not leave things where they can be bumped into or tripped over. This can cause a blind person to fall and hurt themselves, or damage the thing they have fallen onto.
  3. Microwave cooking can be convenient and safe for visually impaired people. There are a wide range of models that can be easily adapted. RNIB and Cobolt Systems Ltd sell a talking microwave, as well as many other daily living gadgets. 

Reading

  1. If you are able to read using a magnifier, you should always sit with the light – a reading lamp or daylight – coming over the shoulder. If it is possible for you to SEE the television, you should sit close to the screen. Be prepared to move your chair from the place you have sat for many years.
  2. If you are supplied with low vision aid magnifiers keep practising with them. They can take some getting used to. Contact the low vision team at the Eye Clinic if you are having difficulties.
  3. Your local Library has a wide variety of large print books and books on audio, also the Talking Book Service accessed through your local Social Services Team carries a vast selection of reading material.

Telephones and mobiles

  1. A wide range of telephones are available to make using a phone easier for visually impaired people. Try large keypad phones, or learn the layout of the keypad so that numbers can be keyed in without relying on sight. Pre programmed numbers can be set for people you call regularly.
  2. If you are visually impaired or have other impairments that make it impossible or difficult to read a telephone directory, you can register free. Telephone Directory Enquiries on195 and ask how to register.
  3. You can make using a mobile phone easier too. There are several types of software that allow a visually impaired person to use a mobile fully, including text messaging. For more details contact either your mobile phone provider, RNIB or Computer Room Services.
  4. Some mobile phones can have a sat nav installed. This can be used either to navigate when travelling in a car or in pedestrian mode when moving around on foot.

Entertainment

  1. The Sonus-1XT Talking DAB Radio has speech output for setting and finding radio stations. It also has a talking clock with speech that enables a visually impaired person to set the alarm. Contact RNIB or Computer Room Services.
  2. Have you tried audio described DVDs and videos? They have a voice over that provides spoken information about the visual aspects of the film.  Audio description can enhance your enjoyment of the movie and it does not distract from the enjoyment for fully sighted viewers. If you have satellite or cable television certain channels are available with audio description – ask your provider for details. 
  3. There are a wide variety of mini and micro memo recorders. You can take to take messages, notes or just use it for a memory aid – use one instead of a pen and paper.

Shopping

  1. Large print easy see, braille or speaking greetings cards are available from larger High Street stationary shops and specialist providers including RNIB.      
  2. In a supermarket, you might find it easier to allow the blind person to hold the handle of the trolley whilst you guide it the other end.
  3. Most department stores are very used to helping blind people choose goods, and it is often wise to ask for help. Staff can describe items, read ingredients and so on. One of our members says: “Blind ladies might wish to take this advice when shopping with their husbands, who may not necessarily be in tune with fashion”.
  4. It is always easiest to find a disabled toilet facility as they are normally uniform this gives dignity to all concerned.