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Youth who are visually impaired need to orient themselves to the group setting in a different manner than those who are sighted. They will need to understand the group environment, including the position of all the participants and the format or structure of learning activities such as readings, or breakout discussions, so that they can prepare for them in advance. Other group members should be aware that they cannot use eye contact to communicate with members of the group who are blind, and must rely on different methods such as:

  • To guide a person who is blind, let him or her take your arm. When encountering steps, curbs, or other obstacles, identify them.
  • When giving directions, be as clear and specific as possible including distance and obvious obstacles.
  • Speak to the person in a normal tone and speed.
  • It’s okay to touch a blind person on the shoulder or arm to convey communication.
  • Don’t touch or play with a working guide dog.
  • Ask the person how much vision he or she has and what communication modality they are most comfortable using.
  • When leaving a room, say so.

Solutions to access problems:

  • Keep pathways clear and raise low-hanging signs or lights.
  • Use large letter signs and add Braille labels to all signs.
  • Keep doors closed or wide open; half open doors are hazardous.
  • Have adaptive equipment available so people who are blind can be full ministry participants (i.e., talking computer, Braille, etc.).
  • Make oral announcements; don’t depend on postings, electronic or otherwise.
  • Any printed material must be created with larger font size and clear script that is easy to read.
  • Add raised or Braille lettering to elevator control buttons, and install entrance indicators at doorways.
  • Utilize audio communication tools such as podcasts, streaming sermons, etc.
  • Make optical magnifiers and aids available for people with visual impairments.

Hope this helps you minister to the vision-impaired in your youth group!

– Chris / @conversefringe

by Chris Schaffner

Chris is a CADC certified counselor working with chemically dependent persons and those with co-occurring disorders. Chris has worked in the field for 7 years and has worked with children and teens for over 15 years. Chris is also the coordinator for The Shelter, a ministry of Group Publishing that provides support to children’s and youth workers from around the world. He has worked with individuals of all ages who struggle with addiction, abuse histories, self injury, depression and suicide. Chris has provided training locally on suicide assessment and on working with the LGBTQ population. Chris provides training at SYMC, KidMin, UYWI, Operation Snowball events, Chicago HOPES and Access Living, CCDA Annual Conference, OtraOnda Dimension Juvenil Conference, has taught parenting and Anger Management classes, and teaches a community-based series called ‘Coping With…” that equips adolescent with life management skills. Chris lives in Central Illinois and is married to Trudy. They have 4 kids; Blake, Charley Grace, and the twins Claire and Chloe.

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