Recommendations for blind/ visually impaired people
Before you read the following recommendations please in keep in mind that visual impaired people do show very different levels of abilities, depending on the time of becoming blind/ visual impaired, severity of seeing loss, age, other diseases/ disabilities, socialization, education, etc. According to these factors blind/visual impaired might be able to read in Braille, show a realistic spatial sense and imagination of the visual world. Some might see dark and brightness or contrast, some might see in a limited view. Some might be able to read written language if they can zoom the letters or a large letter version is available. People being in contact with blind/ visual impaired individual should be aware of that.
- Blind/ visual impaired individuals react just as seeing individuals during times of crisis.
- Cooperation, Networking, Communication, Exchange with blind/visual impairment Associations is necessary ("Nothing about us without us")
- Sensitization of population (possible zero-responders) and professionals about blindness/visual impairment. Sensitization via: school-education, information material (e.g. via Flyer in Braille, Internet & media), trainings. Sensitization should include: self experience (e.g. case studies) (In Israel, fire fighters are required to work for 30 hours with disabled people), learn basics about guiding and speaking with blind/visual impaired individuals (e.g. guide with elbow or upper arm and stand ahead the blind/visual impaired; give verbal cues about obstacles, sidewalks, stairs, doors, crossing a street, etc.) rights and needs.
- Use and adapt existing structures and services, try to find universal designs. Services should be offered all over the country and should not be centralized.
- Communication advice: always introduce yourself first, tell blind/ visual impaired your name and your function.
- Communicate using more details (e.g. information about what is happening, what environment looks like, next steps, etc.), be careful of emotional suddenly pronounced statements like "Oh, my god!". That may be very confusing and increases anxiety of the blind/visual impaired person, if you do not add more information.
- Blind/ visual impaired have a stronger need to feel secure, therefore they need: more communication and information, more time, more sensual contact but always with a premonition ahead, as much self-reliance as possible.
- Develop information material about acute, mid- and longterm services for blind/ visual impaired after crisis. Produce different versions (Braille, auditive design, media, internet, blogs etc.).
- Information in the media should be presented in regular intervals in spoken language; shown pictures should be described in spoken language.
- Create information material (in Braille, spoken language and as electronic source) for blind/ visual impaired including: information about inclusive alert- and emergency-call-systems, rights of blind/ visual impaired, recommendation to have all necessary equipment (e.g. cell phone, white cane, etc.) with you.
- Inform about stress reaction after disaster: general advice how to cope with stress reactions, services and particularly how to access services (address & contact details).
- Blind/ visual impaired individuals should be educated in preparedness of disaster, first aid, etc. (e.g. via Blind/ visual impairment associations).
- Create a voluntary database of the people with disability for easier contact, crisis communication and warning.
- Create inclusive standards for evacuation and emergency routines for employers/ schools/ communities/ public-traffic systems/ public places etc. In particular blind/ visual impaired individuals should take part in disaster drills and simulation. (If trained blind/visual impaired people might be an enormous resource, in disaster when there is no light and no one but them find their way out)
Psychosocial First Aid
- Try not to separate blind/ visual impaired individuals from each other or their relatives/ friends as these people promote their feeling of security and their chance to communicate and receive information.
- Specific communication advice: always signalize help and explain next steps verbally before acting, always ask them if they need anything and if they agree with the next steps or offered help, describe the environment to promote their feeling of security.
- Psychiatric centers should be able to treat blind/ visual impaired people in general not only at one place per country.
- Blind/ visual impaired individuals have the same needs as hearing individuals in the therapy situation e.g. closeness, empathy, humor etc.
- There should be research about prevalence and specific psychopathology of blind/ visual impaired individuals.
- Do not move items without informing the blind/ visual impaired person, as in a known environment every item has a stable place.
- Architectural advice: put a non transparent stripe in the high of 1,4 meters on transparent walls, doors or barrier as visual impaired might not see the obstacle. Mark steps, obstacles, etc. visually or sensory.
- Specific communication advice: give precise directions , explain architecture of buildings where visual impaired people are receiving services after crisis in order to help them to orientate by themselves.