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The Basics

Give and Take

For those of us who can’t see, there are quite a few potentially awkward situations that come up now and then. We usually make it through them with a minimum of embarrassment, although it would be better to figure out how to avoid them in the first place.

As trivial as it may seem to people who can see, simply handing something to someone else or having him or her hand something to us is often one of those awkward situations. If both people in the exchange can see, passing something to someone else seldom results in an issue. But before pursuing this, I do want to point out that, even people who can see occasionally fumble the exchange. Drinks get spilled and things are dropped. Please keep this in mind the next time there is an accident. It may have very well been the person who can see who fumbled.

To keep accidents at a minimum though, I have a few suggestions for handing things to people who can see, and for taking things being handed to us.

The first tip is probably obvious but is also frequently skipped as the first and often the best option. Don’t try to hand something to someone else, especially if it is easily seen by him or her or might spill or break. Simply say, “Sure, you are welcome to it;” or perhaps, “Help yourself.”

If you do need to pick it up and hand it to them, pick it up and hold it toward them. Don’t reach it out or move it around. Let them do the reaching.

If someone is handing something to you, tip one is to not reach for it at all. Ask them to please lay it on the table or some other surface, where you can easily find it. This frequently comes up in restaurants. Just wait with your hands in your lap until the meal is served.

Especially if you are being handed a glass or cup of something that can spill, hold your hand open as if you were going to pick up the glass, bottle or cup. Turn your hand so your fingertips are pointing down. Now put your hand on the table or other surface where you want the glass to be placed. Notice how your thumb and index finger form a circle where the glass or cup should go. Most often, the person who can see will automatically set the glass conveniently inside the circle you have made with your hand. You only need to very gently move your hand until you locate the glass, and then carefully pick it up and have a refreshing drink.

Having something handed to us can be more awkward than handing something to someone else. Why, you ask? The person doing the handing frequently expects us to reach for it and take it from their hand. There may be an uncomfortable silence, while the other person wonders why you aren’t reaching to take what is being handed to you. Even worse, they may lay it down or set it down, expecting you to reach and pick it up.

Tip two is easy. If you are being handed something by someone who may not know you can’t see, just say, “I can’t see and will appreciate your handing it to me.” When they do hand it to you, remember to say, “Thank you.”

One final little tip. For most things, hold your hand, or both hands if appropriate, in front of you at about chest level, as if you already were holding the object being handed to you. People will usually deposit the object in your hand, ready for you to grasp it. However you deal with it, hold still and don’t move your hands around. When people hand stuff to us, our hands should not be a moving target.

There is one hidden tip in there that might be missed. Even if you have a white Cane, dark glasses and your friendly guide dog, some people won’t get it that you can’t see. I usually say early on, “I can’t see. I just thought it might help for you to know that.” No, not to everyone, every time. But whenever the contact is more than passing, mentioning it can’t hurt and often helps.