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How to Make Public Dining Enjoyable for the Blind

You receive a lunch invitation from a blind person, “What should you expect?”

You should understand a blind person has the ability with training to become fully independent. Independence for a visually impaired person does have limits but most tasks become possible after education, training, practice, patience and cooperation from others.

A visually impaired person receiving training possesses the skills to navigate a dining event regardless of the type of food, location of event and consumption area.

What you should expect?

A trained blind person can navigate a restaurant without assistance but may request help in certain situations such as an unfamiliar place, crowded dining area or very loud noisy environment making verbal communication difficult.

If the Visually impaired individual demonstrates calm, controlled movements and takes the lead, he or she does not require help. In most situations the visually impaired person requests assistance if needed. If you do not have training or experience guiding a blind person, you should request instructions from the blind person and not start moving until you and the blind person are comfortable and have an understanding of what is expected from each person making travel easy for both individuals. Good communication skills from both participants are necessary to ensure safety for all involved.

Placing an order:

Once seated the impaired person can effectively interact with the waiter/waitress and place an order. In unfamiliar restaurants, the blind person has the option of requesting a Braille menu or asking the waiter for recommendations or simply asking you as the sighted guide for assistance reviewing the menu. **Tip – allow the visually impaired person time to settle then observe the body language, facial expressions, or other signs revealing if the blind person appears calm, comfortable and ready to place order. If individual seems nervous, unsettled or confused you can offer your help or simply ask the individual; “What can I do to help?” I find a description of the table arrangement helpful, in other words, the placement of silverware, condiments or other items on the table. In addition, a brief description of the surrounding environment (brief description of the table such as round, square, or a booth) helps the blind person visualize the situation and feel more comfortable.


Consumption of meal:

1. Give the visually impaired person the chance to inform the waiter/waitress about the/her vision issue. An exception: If waiter begins talking to the visually impaired person who does not realize the comment/questions were directed to him/her then, informing waiter of the situation is helpful to the blind person and waiter.

2. As food arrives, a blind person is taught to use the face of a clock in order to visualize food placement on a plate. Using twelve, three, six and nine o’clock provides location points for the blind person to use for pinpointing the location of food on the plate. Example: You might say; “Your bread roll is located at nine o’clock.” The blind person can visualize the roll sitting on the left-hand side of the plate. The description of food on a plate begins at twelve and moves clockwise around the plate. The visually impaired person uses the edge of the plate as a guide in order to locate or return to individual items on the plate. A drink is placed on the left at eleven o’clock for a left-handed person and at one o’clock for a right-handed person.

Dining Conversation:

Visually impaired people talk about the same topics as sighted people. Blind people use words like watch, see, and look. I listen to the news, watch television shows, and listen to music.

Personally, the only topic I believe is unnecessary is; “How did you lose your vision?” Normally, a blind person will eventually talk about losing vision in time so it is not necessary for you to bring up the topic before the blind person is ready to talk to you about the event.

When you are invited to lunch by a visually impaired person, you can expect the occasion to be close to what happens when sighted people have a meal together with a few exceptions. Therefore, relax and enjoy the meal.

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