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Guiding visually impaired swimmers

This week, we’re sharing insights from Tash about guiding a visually impaired person in daily situations and in a swimming pool. Tash, co-founder of WeSwim, spent the last 10 years delivering services for blind and partially sighted people at Guide Dogs, this included training up volunteers to help the most isolated blind people leave the home. As a result she is passionate about sighted guide, the term for guiding visually impaired people.

If you haven’t guided a visually impaired person before, it can be intimidating. But as with so many things, people want you to succeed, so don’t worry about getting it wrong. Just offering to assist, is really helpful, even if you are not needed.

Tash’s three key tips

  1. Introduce yourself and offer assistance, but don’t be offended if the person declines your offer as not everyone needs help.
  2. Let the person take your arm. This is very important so they feel in control.
  3. Give instructions where necessary but don’t overload them with information. Key things to note are obstacles such as steps, curbs, doors, indicating if those are up or down, to the left or the right.

Who holds who?

This short video explains a bit about one person’s sight loss and why you should let them hold your arm.

More information available at RNIB.

The following video has a bit more content, as it details the various situations you may face. Don’t feel overwhelmed or worry about the details, the main point to remember is to communicate with the visually impaired person you are assisting, and everything will be fine.

More information available at Guide Dogs.

Guiding around the pool

Changing rooms can be challenging as you may be a different gender. Once in, it may be helpful to guide them to a bench and help them find them a locker. You can use your guiding arm (let them trace down your arm) to indicate where these are.

When guiding around the swimming pool, be mindful that there is plenty of space between them and the water. For entry, stop just before the pool edge and let them feel the pool edge with their foot. Check with the person, many will be fine to get in themselves from that point. They may then need assistance swimming in a straight line or knowing when they are reaching the edge of the pool. You can either use your voice, or tap maybe a toe. If someone else is using the lane, let them know that our client is visually impaired, so they can give them space.

As always, it is best to ask the visually impaired person how / if they like to be guided in the water.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article! We hope you found it useful and you’ll be able to put these tips to use some time soon. What questions can we answer for you about the sighted guiding? Let us know in the comments below.

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