At PECo we have been working with visually impaired artists and core collaborators for over three years now developing our latest theatre project; an immersive multi-sensory journey into the city from a visually impaired perspective.
As part of this we are committed to sharing the learning that we are undergoing around creating inclusive and accessible physical and creative environments for visually impaired people [VIPs].
Below are notes for sighted guiding put together by our core devising group, of whom over 3/4’s are VIPs and whose shared experience of VI awareness raising, training and equal rights activism encompasses some 90 years!
We hope it will encourage others to consider how they are making their venues, working processes and the work they produce not just VI accessible but VI inclusive from the get go.
Notes for Sighted Guiding.
Safety is the first thing to point out. Give your V I partner time to ask for what they need. The V I partner needs to make sure they advise what they need from you.
Don’t assume. All V I people do things differently. Although there is a general pattern of guiding, you should ask your V I partner what they prefer.
Check with your V I partner, which side they wish you to guide them from, and how you should guide them.
Discuss the route before you go so that you are both aware of the journey.
If Your V I partner uses a long cane, they always keep to the right hand side of the corridor.
When Approaching Doors
Tell your V I partner what type of door it is and advise your V I partner which way the door swings. Always fully open a door (especially if the door is opening towards you).
If it is a single door – bring your guiding arm behind your back to show your V I partner that it is a narrow area. This also applies when in narrow areas, where it may not be safe to walk side by side.
If it’s a swing door – pull left hand door towards you and let your V I partner pass you, and go through the door.
If it’s a sliding door – maintain your position going forwards, but be aware of the track on the floor as it could be a trip hazard so please advise your V I partner.
When Approaching Stairs
Look for any tactile markings. Canes can discern tactile markings but won’t tell you if stairs go up or down!
V I person, in the Arnolfini don’t hang onto handrail as it goes around the pillars
Tell V I partner if stairs go up or down, but not the number of stairs.
With spiral stairs always guide the V I partner to the wider area of the steps.
Check if there is a handrail. If there is, ask if your V I partner would like their hand placed there.
When Using Lifts
You should take control of operating the lift and guiding your V I partner to a clear space.
Once on the ground floor, you should guide your V I partner to the exit.
Always use appropriate crossings, keeping you both safe.
Always observe green crossing signals. Don’t just cross if you see nothing is coming. There is a knurled knob underneath the control box that turns when the light is green. This is there for those who can’t see the green man sign.
Please note how your V I partner uses their cane or dog. Keep to crossings, otherwise this confuses the dog
Look Out For Hazards
Check the type of floor surface eg: flat, uneven, cobbled, slippery, wet etc.
Look out for trip hazards. Be aware that your V I partner may not know of them
Make V I partner aware of cyclists
Temporary road works. Advise each other of your awareness of temporary hazards or obstacles.
Be aware of location of the knurled knob on crossings
Look out for: Bike parks, A boards, wheelie bins and street furniture (lamppost, bollards etc)
Look out for: Cars parked on pavement. Blocking safe access for you both
Look out for: Bicycle loops, a cane can go under it, causing confusion
If you can observe what you are passing, you can tell your V I partner about it
Remember your V I partner is concentrating on what they are doing, so give them space to do this safely. This is the wrong time to try and make conversation.
Other Information on Guiding
If V I partner is holding your elbow they will let go if they feel unsafe. The V I partner needs to feel that the knurled knob is going because then they know that it is safe to cross. Knurled knobs and extended tactiles are usually on the right, so generally you will need to keep to the right
Hearing is very different when outdoors.
Don’t assume. All V I people do things differently
Remember, although this is a general guide for sighted guiding, you should ask your V I partner what they prefer and need.
STAY SAFE WHEREVER YOU ARE.