John’s top tips for supporting people with visual impairments over Christmas

We've adapted last year's blog from volunteer and service user John, where he runs us through his top tips for hosting someone with visual impairments the Christmas season.

Hi everyone, _gdj7229

I’m John and in a bid to make the festive season easier for people, I’ve put together my top tips for supporting people with visual impairments at Christmas:

1. Act normal

When you’re with your relatives, they sometimes wrap you in cotton wool, and they want to be at your beck and call. I politely explain that I’m fine, I’d rather get things myself than be smothered.

2. Use coloured wine glasses

This one’s for people with some useful vision. Having contrasting glasses makes it easier to see and less likely for me to spill my drink!

3. Don’t leave all the presents on the floor

Sometimes when you’re opening presents, kids are so excited they just leave them on the floor, but try to keep them in a safe place. The last thing we want is anyone breaking their precious gifts (or my leg) because I can’t see them.

4. Please describe what you’ve got

It’s nice to describe what you’ve got rather than just listing your gifts. I like to know, I may have missed a great present or trend.

5. Think about lighting

Always ask questions, because everyone is different. Although we all love the atmosphere of candles and fairy lights, it’s better if there’s more light to see what’s going on.

6. I’d love a darker plate to put my turkey and potatoes on

It makes it easier to see, nothing like good contrast to ease the embarrassment. Or why not arrange my food like a clock face? I could have the potatoes at 12 o’clock, the meat at 3 o’clock; I just hope I’ve something for every hour!

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7. Tell me what’s on the table and where

On Boxing Day we always go to my mother-in-law’s, and she does a buffet meal. She’ll take me over and say “There’s lasagne here on your left, and next to the jacket potatoes there’s garlic bread.” I don’t have to wait for someone to come up with me that way, which gives me that bit of independence back. I don’t want to be missing out on those brussel sprouts just because I can’t see them!

8. Use names

This might sound obvious, but it’s really crucial – all year round. If people are coming in and out of a room, it’s often good to know who they are so feel free to say something like “Hi John, it’s Stewart here.” Don’t forget to tell me if you are leaving the room, I hate carrying on a conversation with myself.

9. Try not to move my things

I hate hide and seek at Christmas, the remote control’s probably been put there for a reason!

10. Don’t make it too noisy

Background noise is OK, but it’s easier for me if it’s a bit quieter, having the TV on in the background can be really confusing.

11. Get the travel plans ready early on

Making sure we’ve talked about how I’m getting home is really helpful – sometimes it’s not obvious, but it’ll really hang over me all day. A simple conversation early on could really help me relax and enjoy my Christmas.

I hope these help; if you find these useful or would like to suggest your own, give us a ring on 0161 872 1234 or email stories@henshaws.org.uk.

This is an adapted version of our blog from last year and the RNIB’s version which they used for their ‘Connect magazine’; it’s available on their website at: rnib.org.uk/connect-magazine.

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John
John is a service user at Henshaws Liverpool Resource Centre, and has an eye condition called Optic Atrophy. He is a previous winner of the Gillian Lawrence award which celebrates the work of service users throughout Henshaws and volunteers regularly in our Liverpool Centre.
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