Rights of assistance dogs and their owners

How to communicate with blind and partially sighted people and provide sighted guidance

Ensure a good level of staff awareness, which could be addressed through disability awareness training for all current and new staff.

Staff should know how to meet and greet a person who is blind or partially sighted and have some knowledge of how to guide a person who requires sighted guidance.

When addressing a blind or partially sighted person with a guide dog, speak to the person, not the dog, and tell them who you are and what your role is in the shop or store.

Ask the blind or partially sighted person what assistance is needed rather than making assumptions as to what might be required.

If the blind or partially sighted person asks to be guided to another part of the premises, stand by the person’s side and allow them to take hold of your arm or elbow in order to guide them along. Do not take hold of them and drag or push them in a particular direction. When guiding a blind or partially sighted person through a building or outdoors, it is important to tell the person where they are going and what obstacles or hazards might be approaching. They need to be told in advance about doors opening towards or away from them and about steps, kerbs or slopes going up or down, which will allow them time to adjust to their surroundings. This should prevent accident and injury.

When guiding a person with a guide dog, stand by the person’s right-hand side (usually the guide dog will be on the left) and adopt the same procedure as above. Never take hold of the dog’s lead or harness and, if the owner tells the dog to do something, do not interfere as this may confuse the guide dog.

Good communication is vital for all customers but even more so for blind and partially sighted people. Where possible information should be provided in the requested format, so that blind and partially sighted customers are not excluded.

It is helpful, and may also be legally required as a reasonable adjustment, to explain the layout of the premises to a blind or partially sighted person and when doing this, remember to ask the person what information might be useful before bombarding them with too much detail. If there are any potentially dangerous items, e.g. fire extinguishers or protruding radiators, tell the person where they are and what they are. Items which may cause a trip hazard (trolleys etc) should be removed.