Tips for Soliciting Aid
Feeling comfortable asking for assistance is an important part of travelling independently in the community. Everyone has times when they need help with directions, including sighted people. If it were easy to find our way around a shopping mall for example, we wouldn’t need information booths. Also, landmarks that are accessible to some are not accessible to others. Soliciting aid is a reality check, not a sign of dependence. It’s a perfectly legitimate option, and one that helps us to be more independent the next time we travel the same route.
Knowing ‘how’ to ask for assistance is equally important. Approaching someone who might be unfamiliar with guiding techniques requires confidence, awareness and patience. Similarly, if you’re soliciting aid from strangers, you’ll want to be alert to your surroundings and maintain as much control as possible over your movements. Here are some useful tips for streetwise travelling.
- Plan ahead
- Remember that independence means knowing when to ask for help.
- Know where you are and where you want to go.
- Be firm and specific. State the location you want to get to—an address, a landmark, left, right, etc. But try not to disclose your home address to strangers.
- Don’t just “go” with the person you’ve asked for assistance. Pay attention to where you are going. Be alert to any turns that are taking you away from the street you should be on. Note which side the traffic is on during street-crossings. Be sure you’re being led across the correct street.
- Review your routes before travelling. Try to learn some landmarks. If you’d like assistance with crossing a street, for example, it helps to be able to say: “Could you please help me across Yonge Street? I’m going to the corner with the library on it.” Maintain control.
- Do not accept assistance unless you’re comfortable with the person. Trust your instincts. If in doubt, thank the person and ask someone else.
- Don’t let the person grab you. Use proper Sighted Guide Technique and be prepared to explain the techniques if needed.
- Don’t let a sighted guide hold your arm. If your guide thinks, for example, that all you need is help getting started crossing the street, he or she might let go of your arm part way through. You’ll then find yourself in the middle of the road without the proper alignment to finish crossing safely. It’s better to hold your guide’s arm instead.
- Communicate clearly. Say: “Could I please take your arm?” This will put you in proper sighted guide position. You’ll be more in control, more able to maintain your orientation and direction, and less likely to be dragged along. You’ll also feel more dignified.
- Sound confident when you’re soliciting aid. Keep your head up. An upright posture indicates you are a confident person who knows where you are and where you want to go.
- Be polite. Although it can be frustrating to have someone grab your arm and start leading you without asking if you need assistance or where you want to go, remember that the majority of people genuinely want to help. They may have no experience with vision impairment and may not know how best to help. Explain what it is you need and how the person can assist.
- If the person offering assistance presumes to know where you are going, you need to regain control. Stop, plant your feet, and state in a loud, clear voice where you want to go. If you’re not happy with the assistance, pull your arm away and say: “Thank you but I can do it myself.”
- Practice soliciting aid by role-playing with family and friends.
For more information on travelling safely in the community, see the article Streetwise Travel on our site.