What is sighted guide?
Sighted guide is
the act of a sighted person guiding a blind person. Visually
impaired people, (whether they are totally blind or have some
degree of useful vision), may occasionally require the
assistance of a sighted human guide. In some cases, a person
with a guide dog may still need assistance from a sighted human
guide if in a new or unfamiliar area. This can be done by the
guide dog user asking the dog to follow you to wherever it may
be (eg. a table or door).
A short video on how to
apply sighted guide techniques
For a short video on how to best apply sighted
guide techniques, please view the link below:
To be of greatest assistance to a blind or visually impaired
person (and to avoid any embarrassing situations), please use the
following helpful hints:
Making initial contact with a
- Speak in a normal tone. A blind person can generally hear
quite well. Just because they can't necessarily see, does not
automatically mean that they can't hear you.
- When entering a
room where a blind person is, address the person and announce yourself by name.
Eg. "Hi Kathy, it's John in front of you".
- If at a table and a blind person joins you,
initiate the greeting and
- If you start a conversation, again address the person by name.
If you don't, he/she might not realise that you are talking to
- If you must leave, make sure that you tell them you are leaving
the room/area. The blind person may not hear/see you leave,
and could feel embarrassed if they are left talking to
- If the blind person has a guide dog,
remember to talk to the
person and not the dog. Please do not try to pat or
feed the dog, as even though it may be seated, it is still on
duty. Walking up and patting or attempting to feed a dog on
duty (although seemingly harmless) could quite quickly
distract the dog from its' duties, and become a safety issue.
Regardless of your location (eg. when at a BBQ) always ask first. It is up
to the guide dog user whether or not he/she allows you to.
Most people would not just go up to a neighbourhood dog and
pat it, and so too people should not just walk up to guide
dogs and expect to be able to pat them.
When you guide a blind person
- Offer assistance, and ask how you can best
help them. (Never grab a blind person unexpectedly, pull them
along, or steer them from behind).
- To establish contact with a blind/visually
impaired person, touch the back of your hand to the back of
their hand as a signal for them to take your arm.
- Be very precise when giving directions.
Walking side by side
- Place yourself next to the blind person and
offer your arm (which should be straight and pointing to the
ground). He/she should hold you firmly above the elbow (with
their arm bent at the elbow). This way, the blind person is a
half-step behind you, which allows him/her to know when you
- If you are guiding and the blind person is
behind you, you should move your arm towards the middle of
your back. This lets him/her know that he/she is entering a
- When it is possible to walk side by side
again, place your arm in the normal position, by your side.
The blind person will then follow your lead and reposition
themselves by your side.
Using the stairs
- Come to a complete stop before the
- Inform the blind person as to which side
the hand rail is on (Eg. "the hand rail is on your right" or
"the hand rail is on your left"). Occasionally, there may not
be a rail.
- The blind person takes hold of the hand
rail (if available), and lines their foot up with the first
- It is good to mention how many steps there
are, and in which direction they go. (Eg. "There are 3 steps
down to the path" or "there are 12 steps up before a flat
- Proceed with the steps together in rhythm,
the guide always one step ahead. Be careful not to go too fast
or too slow up or down the stairs.
- Stop at the end of the stairs and tell them
when you arrive at the last step.
Taking a seat
- When approaching a chair, ask the blind
person if you can place their hand on the back of the seat.
Sometimes they may prefer to be led to the chair, but seat
- Give information about the type of seat it
is (Eg. chair, bench seat, rocking chair, metal or plastic
- Alert the blind person as to which way the
seat is facing (Eg. "I am putting your hand on the back of the
seat - it is facing away from you" or "We are now in front of
the seat, and the back of the seat is nearest to you").
What to do when approaching a
- You should tell the blind person when
he/she is approaching a door and in which direction it opens.
(Eg. "the door opens to your left towards us" or "the door
opens away from us to the right").
- Allow them to find the handle by describing
its position (Eg "the handle is about waist height on your
right") and ensure that they pass safely through it.
Safety measures to be aware
of when sighted guiding
- Keep floors clear. (This avoids having to
navigate unnecessary obstacles).
- Keep doors entirely open or closed. (This
avoids the possibility of running into them).
- Keep cupboard doors closed. (An opened door
could easily cause injury).
- Announce changes in the environment (eg.
"We are about to go onto grass", "we are approaching a
crossing" or "the ground along here will be a little uneven
for the next few metres").
- Return chairs to the table when leaving
them. (This way the chair does not become an obstacle).
- Blind travellers with guide dogs may not
require physical assistance. Most importantly, ask whether or
not the guide dog user needs assistance. Occasionally, they
may if in tight spaces! (Eg. in a busy restaurant with
lots of tables quite close to each other). In this case, the
sighted person may lead the blind person using the "narrow
space" method and the guide dog will walk behind on a
shortened leash so it stays close behind them. A guide dog is
said to be "at work" when guiding. Make sure to ask if you
wish to talk to, or pat the dog. Not doing so, may distract
the dog and impair the safety of the blind person.
In summary, ask if a blind
or vision impaired person needs assistance.
If they do, ask how you can
best assist them, and remember to be very specific