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A simple hello works best. Blind people share advice on offering assistance

  • Almost 9 in 10 blind or partially sighted people may need some help when they’re making an unfamiliar journey.
  • However, 60% of sighted people say they feel nervous or awkward about approaching a person with sight loss to offer assistance.
  • RNIB launches free Be Helpful guide with tips & advice, created with people with sight loss.

Leading sight loss charity the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has launched a new campaign aimed at encouraging sighted people to offer a helping hand or voice, rather than waiting to be asked.

Our world isn’t designed with blind and partially sighted people in mind and RNIB research[1] tells us that almost 9 in 10 blind or partially sighted people may need some help when they’re making an unfamiliar journey.

RNIB research[2] also shows that almost half of the public (45%) feel confident they know the signs that a blind or partially sighted person needs assistance. However, 60% say they feel nervous or awkward about offering assistance, and often feel they lack the knowledge and confidence to offer appropriate help.

To help people feel more comfortable in offering assistance, RNIB has released a free online guide created with people with sight loss. The Be Helpful guide includes tips on everything from starting a conversation to everyday ways to help – like moving your bins back or keeping your car off the kerb.

The Be Helpful guide is backed up by new research[3] commissioned by RNIB which shows that the majority of blind and partially sighted people would like sighted people to offer assistance, and that a simple hello and offer of help is the best way to go about it.

Almost half (43%) said they would like sighted people to offer assistance at train stations and 39% at bus stops. A third of people said assistance would be welcome when on a pavement with obstacles such as bins, pavement parking, or approaching scooters (30%).

When asked ‘what are the main things people forget to do when trying to guide you’, forgetting to give verbal directions or introduce themselves came top. Almost a third (28%) said that people ‘forget to talk to me directly and not my companion or guide dog’, while almost a quarter (23%) said that people ‘forget to say goodbye’.

The campaign film features actors with sight loss and uses everyday relatable experiences: navigating A-boards on the high street, waiting for a bus, dodging cars parked on pavements, bumping into unexpected bins, and attempting to locate milk at the local shop, to highlight these challenges and encourage people to download the guide.

Kelsey Ellison is one of the actors who stars in the short film. Kelsey, who has a prosthetic eye, said: “RNIB’s campaign, and the film, struck a chord with me. I experience these challenges all the time – bumping into a-boards outside cafes and battling with overhanging branches. It might seem like a small thing but if people take the time to say hello and offer assistance to people with sight loss, or move a-boards or bins, it makes a huge difference.”

David Aldwinckle, RNIB’s Director of Insight and Customer Voice, said:

“Whilst most people with sight loss, like me, have worked out ways to get around as independently as we can, that doesn’t mean help isn’t welcome.

“When somebody asks me at the bus stop if I need any help, I really appreciate it. Just that small recognition that help might be useful makes me feel like I belong and am part of the community. There are times when help is really important. When walking through a busy and crowded underground station you sometimes have to guess which is the right way to go which raises feelings of anxiety. A quick ‘hello’ and question of ‘do you need a hand?’ means I can ask if I’m going the right way and it makes such a difference.”

Will you help people with sight loss get around more easily? Get our top tips on how you can be helpful. Search ‘Be Helpful Guide’ to find out more

Notes to editors

All media enquiries to RNIB’s PR team on [email protected] or 020 7391 2223. For urgent enquiries out-of-hours, please call 07968 482812.

The new research [footnote 3] was carried out online by Research Without Barriers (RWB). All surveys were conducted between 19th March 2024 and 26th March 2024. The sample comprised 404 UK adults registered blind or partially sighted. All research conducted adheres to the UK Market Research Society (MRS) code of conduct (2023).