Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

How to Assist the Visually Challenged

KIDSTUFF - Zaida Marie A. Tambis - The Freeman

I have seen Charles around the school since first grade. He has always been friendly and smiling. He goes around the campus with a friend who guides him and describes the surroundings to him. He looks so happy when playing tag. He likes being “it.” As long as there is nothing on the ground that might cause him to trip over, he can move around with his arms extended in front of him. He changes his direction as he hears the squeals and laughter of his playmates. 

Charles is visually impaired; he cannot see. From what I hear, he can only see some rays of light and lots of shadows. To my surprise, I see him in my classroom on the first day of classes. He is one of my classmates. At his parent’s request, he sits in the front row. And because I’m one of the shortest students, I sit next to him.

“Hi, Charles. I’m Andy,” I greet him as I put my bag down. “Hey, Andy,” he beams and reaches for my hand. We have been inseparable since that day. We are partners in most of the pair work activities. I am proud and happy to work with him. I learn to be patient and kind.

A lot of people ask how I manage to be Charles’ seatmate, so let me share some tips how to be a good friend to those who have problems with their vision.

• Talk to them first and introduce yourself. They cannot see your face but they will instantly recognize and remember your voice.

• Give them your hand when you notice that they are trying to reach or touch you. It seems to make them feel connected when they hold your hand.

• If you have to walk around, allow them to place their hand in the crook of your arm. This is more secure than them putting their hand on your shoulder which will easily slip if you move too fast for them. 

• When walking on uneven surface, inform them if they need to make a big or a high step. This will prevent them from tripping over anything.

• Always describe what you see in detail. Instead of just saying, “Oh there’s a car”, it’s better to say, “There is a red car coming towards us.” Surprisingly, they understand colors.

• Be specific when giving instructions. They appreciate it when you tell them to “take five steps backward” than “come here.”

Being in school with a friend like Charles makes me realize how lucky we are to be able to see the things around us, but it also teaches me that they are luckier to be able to feel more with their heart.

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