Socializing Issues for People Who Are Blind or Have Low Vision

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This article is part of the series: How to Create Welcoming Spaces for People Who Are Blind or Have Low Vision.  We have collaborated with our friends at the RCA on their online platform, Faithward

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Many people are not aware of the challenges of living without sight in a visual world. This resource was developed by people who are blind or have low vision in order to help the church better welcome and include all people. For every identified problem, there is a matching solution to guide people with sight in reducing and eliminating these socializing hurdles.

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PROBLEM: It is difficult for people who are blind or have low vision to recognize who is speaking at any given time.

SOLUTION: Say your name when greeting a person who is blind or has low vision, or before addressing a group of people during a meeting, event, or a service.

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PROBLEM: During fellowship times, such as coffee hour, the space can be too loud, making it difficult—if not impossible—to hear or to enjoy the fellowship time with other people. 

SOLUTION: Find a more secluded place to converse.

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PROBLEM: Many barriers to clear paths may exist in any given space, making it difficult for people who are blind or have low vision to move safely around the space. Consider the hazards of cords, bags, and hot beverages that have the potential of being spilled.

SOLUTION: Avoid clutter in meeting spaces. If an identified, familiar space is regularly used for fellowship gatherings, do not needlessly rearrange the room. If the space is rearranged, or if new furniture or displays are added, give advanced notice to any people who are blind or have low vision so they can become familiar with the adjusted layout ahead of time.

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PROBLEM: It is difficult to socialize with others because of the challenge of finding people and knowing who is present. 

SOLUTION: Specifically encourage people who are blind or have low vision to volunteer, especially in settings where people of all sight levels can interact. For example, during fellowship hour, some people can cut food; and others may be willing to wash dishes or set out cups. Providing an opportunity to serve also provides an opportunity for interaction and getting to know others.

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PROBLEM: It is difficult to engage with others and establish ongoing relationships with a wide variety of people within the congregation.

SOLUTION: Since it may be tempting for sighted people to avoid a person who is blind or has low vision (“they’ll never know I’m here”), practice the same polite hospitality as you would with a sighted person.

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PROBLEM: In Bible studies and small groups, it is difficult to know what is going on, who any new people are, or who is participating.

SOLUTION: Ask everyone to say their names at the beginning of each meeting and each time they speak.

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PROBLEM: People without disabilities often are not aware of the needs of people with disabilities and are unlikely to engage in conversation.

SOLUTION: Be proactive in normalizing accessible interactions; raise awareness of the particular challenges that people who are blind or have low vision face; and regularly educate about hospitality that builds relationships and welcomes all people, especially newcomers and people with disabilities.

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I have a relationship by phone with a old classmate who blind from MS disease, that's what I have too but am not blind! She tells me what is like, it's hard! Found each other after 40 yrs! Lol 

  Very fulfilling for both of us!