Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services estimates there are more than 600,000 blind or visually impaired people in Texas who are potential beneficiaries from participating in a tournament that is exclusively for birding by ear. This Tip Sheet was prepared by the Rio Grande Valley Blind and Visually Impaired Birders to aid two groups of people:
- Experienced bird watchers, who want to share their sport with blind and visually impaired people, and
- Blind and visually impaired people, who want to benefit from this fun and educational outdoor activity.
Organizations that can help you locate blind people near you:
The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), Division of Blind Services (DBS) has offices throughout Texas. Search the internet for a DARS office near you, or call Austin Headquarters.
The Lion's Club is a worldwide organization dedicated to helping the blind and visually impaired. Search the internet or phone directory to locate your local chapter.
Interacting with a blind individual:
Introduce yourself so the blind person will know your presence.
Never hesitate to offer your help at any time.
Don't be ashamed to use the word "blind" or to make references to seeing; it's unavoidable and won't hurt anyone's feelings.
To get a blind person's attention, call the individual by name.
It is okay to tap them on the shoulder as a hint to get their attention
Words like "Hey, Hey you" are not polite and have no meaning for blind people.
It's important to signal a blind individual when you are done with a conversation and when you are pulling away. (such as "Well, now I will go.") Otherwise, they are likely to continue talking believing you are standing there which can be very embarrassing.
Walking with blind people:
To guide a blind individual, offer your elbow to a blind individual and they will use a "glass milk" grip to walk by your side and slightly behind. This "glass milk" grab lets the blind person judge for him/herself when you are stepping up or down.
NEVER pull an individual to get them to walk. It's a very insecure feeling to be pushed, rather than led.
While walking, describe the terrain: open areas, objects, overhanging tree branches, ground cover, path, etc. on the way to reach a designated area. It is helpful to describe the type of path you and the blind person will encounter as you approach them: bricks, pebbles, bumpy, uneven surfaces, etc.
When approaching a chair or a bench you can tap on the object loud enough for them to hear so that the individual can find it and seat themselves.
When encountering limbs or branches, blind individuals should be notified so they can protect their face. The same applies when approaching low-hanging objects that could potentially trip them.
When calling a blind person to join you, talk to them ("keep coming"), until they reach you. Be as specific as possible ("ten feet further", "walk straight", "turn left ninety degrees")
It is not helpful to call out, "come here", "over there", "turn there", etc. (these words don't have meaning to any direction)
Birding with the Blind
When observing birds orient the group of blind people in single file and facing the same direction.
Use the hours of the clock to identify the position of a bird's call.and avoid confusion. (Example: Did you hear that at 3 o'clock?")
Describe the bird's colors with references for the colors: "blue as the sky," "green as the grass", "yellow as the sun." This is particularly helpful for people who have been blind from birth and have no other frame of reference.
Describe other characteristics of the bird, "small as a mouse" or "as big as a chicken."
Detailed descriptions will help individuals to create an image in their head (especially those with previous vision; Example: "This is a light brownish color large bird with white thin stripes running down its back.")
If you have further questions about working with a blind or visually impaired person don't hesitate to ask them. They know that's why you're there and want you to feel comfortable learning about us.