What Do I Say?

Initially, you should communicate with your loved one about their degree of sight loss. Ask them what they can still see and do. For most people, blindness does not mean total darkness, and with understanding, counseling and retraining, there is renewed hope.

Some Things to Say and Do or Not Do

  • Ask whether the person needs help. Don’t insist on helping if you are not asked.
  • Don’t hover over them and repeatedly ask, “Can you see this?”
  • Ask probing questions and observe them, in order to determine what they can or cannot see.
  • Find out if there is a hobby or task your loved one misses doing, such as reading, cooking, etc., and assure them that there are ways to continue doing these things.
  • If reading is important to the person, inform them of the benefits of the Braille Institute Library’s books on tape or in braille.
  • Learn more about our free Library Services.
  • Ask them whether their eyes have been checked recently by a doctor.
  • Don’t avoid using such words as “look,” “see” or “blind.”
  • Assure them that you will arrange transportation for them to important locations.

Common Symptoms of Sight Loss

There are a number of symptoms that may indicate the onset of an eye disease. A comprehensive eye exam should be scheduled if any of these signs of potential eye problems develops. Early detection and treatment can be the key to preventing needless loss of sight.

  • Typical symptoms may include:
  • Trouble adjusting eyesight to dark rooms or outside at night
  • Difficulty focusing on near or distant objects
  • Squinting or blinking due to unusual sensitivity to light or glare
  • Inflamed or red eyes or swollen eyelids
  • Recurrent pain in or around eyes
  • Dark spot at center of viewing
  • Double vision
  • Seeing spots or ghost-like images

The following symptoms may be indications of more serious problems, and an ophthalmologist should be consulted as soon as possible:

  • Sudden loss of vision in one eye
  • Sudden hazy or blurred vision
  • Flashes of light or showers of black spots
  • Halos or rainbows around lights
  • Loss of peripheral (side) vision

Sighted Guide Techniques

There are a variety of techniques that are easy to learn and an efficient way to provide a person who is legally blind with meaningful assistance. A significant percentage of people who are blind are adept at traveling, either alone, using a white cane, or with a guide dog, yet many appreciate assistance in an unfamiliar environment.

The sighted guide techniques outlined in the following PDF file will help make assisting a blind person easier, but they will not make you proficient. Actual sighted guide training is recommended and is available through the nearest Braille Institute Center.

View/Download: Sighted Guide Techniques (1.2 Mb)

Vistas Stores

Our Vistas retail stores stock many helpful assistive devices such as signature guides, magnifiers, talking clocks and watches, large-print and braille games and books, kitchen aids, brailled greeting cards and much more. Learn more about our Vistas stores and to download the latest catalog.


In the “Resources” section of our Web site you will find a number of free resources that will help you to help your loved one who is experiencing vision loss. View a list of all of our resources available for download.

Our 800 Number

If you need information about any aspect of Braille Institute and its free programs and services, or if you need a referral to an agency outside of Southern California, please call our toll-free number, 1-800-BRAILLE (1-800-272-4553), Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., PST.

Sound Solutions

If you can’t come to one of our five regional centers, Sound Solutions is a first-of-its kind audio series that presents practical information, resources and encouragement for you or a loved one who are experiencing sight loss. Professionally produced, the series uses creative scripts, testimonials, sound effects, music and humor to keep you listening and learning. They are enjoyable, inspirational, practical and free.

You can listen to the full series of Sound Solutions series directly on our website or to have the series mailed to you free of charge, call 1-800-BRAILLE (1-800-272-4553), Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., PST.