Make sure you have accessible ways for constituents attending surgeries to fill in enquiry forms, and accessible copies of key information that you often share, for example, details of local services. This could be large print, braille or electronic formats - the RNIB can help produce these - see details below.
If a constituent lets you know they are blind or partially sighted ahead of a meeting:
Give clear instructions describing where you will be in advance and check whether they will require assistance from you or your team on arrival.
Check whether they are bringing another person to support them, who might need another chair, or a guide dog who will need a water bowl.
Ask your constituent what format they will want any documentation or follow up materials in. This will often be a larger print or email, but may be braille or audio, which RNIB can help with - see details below.
Always introduce yourself, and if you’d like to shake hands let your constituent know. For example, you could say: ‘Hello it’s Richard, I am just extending my hand to you’. If there are several people in a meeting make sure you introduce each person and if anyone needs to leave the room, tell the group so the constituent is not left talking to an empty space.
The direction of your voice is important; always face the constituent when speaking. Avoid visual gestures like nodding, using verbal assent instead. Let them know what you’re doing in quiet moments: ‘I am just going to make a few notes, bear with me while I write’. If you’re offering refreshments be clear about where you are placing them, especially drinks.
Your constituent may want to be guided to where your meeting will be held using your bent elbow or by putting their hand on your shoulder. Ask which side is preferred, they will have been guided many times before so will be used to explaining what they need from you.
Walk at a normal relaxed pace, advising of any hazards, uneven surfaces, and when you are approaching doors or steps. When approaching a door, explain which way it opens, and on moving through let your constituent know when you are passing the door’s weight to them.
If you reach steps or a ramp explain whether they go up or down and ask how you can help. Long cane or guide dog users may prefer to navigate for themselves. Guide the person’s hand to the handrail and advise when they are at the start and end of a flight. If there are any gaps in the handrail offer your arm again.
Help your visitor to sit down by guiding them to a chair and placing his or her hand on the back of it. That way the person will be able to find their way to the seat. Remember to tell them if the chair is pushed under a table, if it has arms, and never offer a chair with wheels.