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How to respect the unsighted

Like most things in life, interacting with blind people doesn’t come with a handbook.
“Being thoughtful and considerate should just come naturally in general. You shouldn’t have to go overboard.” said White Cane Club treasurer Lori Fry. (Samantha Holomay— File Photo)

Like most things in life, interacting with blind people doesn’t come with a handbook.

Often, people who aren’t used to interacting with the visually or audibly impaired don’t know how to act, but Lori Fry of the 100 Mile House and District Blind and Visually Impaired White Cane Club says respect triumphs over everything.

Fry observed most people are afraid of saying the wrong things but she is here to reassure people that there are few things you can say to a visually or audibly impaired person that you couldn’t say to someone else.

Some people may feel bad if they think they have accidentally said the wrong thing, especially if they are not exposed very often to those with disabilities, Fry said, giving an example. “Like, ‘oh, did I just say see you later?’ I wouldn’t know that no, no, you’re allowed to say see you later.”

Fry understands that disability isn’t something people come across daily, but instead of focusing on what not to do, she encourages people to focus on what they can.

A few helpful tips are as follows:

If you see a white cane, politely move out of the way

A white cane is a navigation or identification aid for people with sight loss; it’s how blind or partially blind people navigate the world.

People who use them often move in a two-point touch or sweeping motion, so it’s important that when you are near one that is in use to be mindful of the space between you and the cane, as its contact with the ground is a key part in navigating for the visually impaired.

Fry says the white cane is an international symbol of courage

Do include them in conversations and rephrase your rhetoric

Many visually impaired people can’t absorb facial expressions or social cues, but despite that, it’s essential to include them in conversations just like you would anyone else.

Introduce yourself

Fry says if you’re meeting a blind person for the first time, one of the things you can do to make them more comfortable is tell them who you are. Simply greeting them the same way you would greet anyone else takes a lot of the awkwardness away.

Empathy over sympathy; have some faith

Feeling sorry for a blind or visually impaired person is often a sighted person’s first response whenever they interact. Sighted people often automatically feel sorry and treat others as though having a vision impairment must be a terrible thing they couldn’t imagine going through.

There are many ways to show respect

Through workshops and educational meetings, Fry says the club tries to educate and demonstrate what the public can do to respect and help visually or audibly impaired people. Contributing with time through volunteer work to learning graciousness through education to Fry, no more than being caring to your fellow human beings. She says trying to be understanding and patient is a trait that we can all incorporate to become more mindful.

According to Statistics Canada, three per cent of Canadians aged 15 years and older, or about 750,000 people, reported having a visual disability that limited their daily activities, and according to data from the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability, almost six per cent of people in this group reported being legally blind.

“The bottom line is we are a group of low-vision individuals here to help each other and the community in general with anything related to low vision, any needs or assistance needed in the community,” said Fry.

Anyone looking to help those with visual disabilities more directly are welcome to volunteer for the White Cane Club, Fry said.

She can be reached at 250-395-2452 or

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