- Disabilities & the Disabled
Blind Man on the Stairs
I Hate Stairs
Stairs and Steps
As a blind man, some of my most frightening experiences have been on staircases and steps.
Believe it or not I had a class which took a whole day to teach me how to navigate these obstacles. The scary thing is no-one ever told me as a sighted person how to approach the obstacle of a blind man on a stair.
What I do as a blind man.
Going up a staircase for me is quite easy. I approach the staircase and find the bottom step with my cane. Having located this I move to the right to find the handrail.
With my toes against the first step and right hand on the rail I lift my cane and hold it loosely in order to allow it to swing. Lifting the cane I allow it to tap across the back of the first step then repeat this process to find the back of the second step.
This then gives me a fixed level to set my left arm. It tells me as I climb I have two steps ahead. As I climb the cane taps the back of each step in turn. When I reach the top the cane swings freely and tells me a landingis coming up or the top is reached.
Going down is much more complicated and frightening. I first need to find the top step then again move right to find the handrail. I hold my cane loosely to allow it to drop a step as I push it with my foot. All the time I need to lean backwards and slide my right fore arm down the handrail. This means if I fall I naturally fall backwards not head first, embarrassing but less dangerous if I miss my footing.
I need to push my cane with one foot over the step and let it fall to the next tread. It is a slow process and actually pretty uncomfortable for me to do. Very tiring on a long flight of stairs or over several flights.
In the end though I reach the bottom and am able to stand upright again.
White Canes for the Blind
What Should You do?
I would recommend a sighted person to allow for sudden changes of direction by the blind person. For instance in looking for a handrail I will always head to my right. So feel free to pass on my left.
In going up stairs my left elbow is raised and away from my body, this is not to block you or to request that you take my arm to guide me. By all means ask if I need assistance but don't assume I am demanding your attention, it is just the safest way for me to feel what is ahead.
At all times be patient, going down stairs is time consuming for me too, and believe me I don't really want to be on a staircase, I'd much prefer an elevator. Please don't try to push between me and the handrail at the top of the stair. I have had someone do that as I reached out. It is not a pleasant experience and takes me a while to recover from.
Please wait for a clear space to move around me if you are in a hurry. Then try not to bump into me as you pass this may cause me to lose concentration and lose control of my cane, possibly tripping you.
In general show patience.
Using an Escalator
When I am using an escalator rules remain similar to those regarding stairs, except I don't need to feel for each stair, but I will remain stationary to the right..
Be prepared to have me stop on the approach to the top or bottom.
I use my cane to listen for the click or feel the joints on the escalator, it normally takes a step or two to pass under my cane for me to judge where the next step is and avoid standing on a joint.
Give me room, I might need to step back if I misjudge the width of a step and I don't want to push you over.
I also need some space when leaving the escalator. As the steps level I will lift my toes to slide off, but cannot step of as quickly as you can. My aim is to step forward in a straight line a few paces to allow you space to pass,
These are a guide to the rules for the proper use of stairs and escalators taught to me by my trainer. They are the current advised methods in the United States and may vary in other countries. I hope they will give you some insight of how to meet a blind man on a stair.
Some of my Other Hubs on Disability
- What is it like to go Blind?
What is it like to wake in the morning and see nothing? To wake and find oneself blind?
- Living with Disability: My Life with Blindness
A description of How I see the world, since becoming blind
- The Frustration of Travel for the Disabled
Flying Across the United States. My first experience of travelling alone when blind.