The Carlington Summit

People who use their eyes to receive information about the world are called sighted people or “people who are sighted.” Legal “sight” means visual acuity greater than 20/200 in the better eye without correction or an angle of vision wider than 20 degrees. Sighted people enjoy rich full lives, working, playing and raising families. They run businesses, hold public office and teach your children!

How do sighted people get around?

People who are sighted may walk or ride public transportation, but most choose to travel long distances by operating their own motor vehicles. They have gone through many hours of training, at great expense, to learn the “rules of the road” to further their independence. Once that road to freedom has been mastered, sighted people earn a legal classification and a “Driver's License” that allows them to operate a private vehicle safely and independently.

Sighted people cannot function well in low lighting conditions and are generally completely helpless in total darkness. Their homes are usually very brightly lit at great expense, as are businesses that cater to the sighted consumer.

How can I best communicate with sighted people?

Sighted people are accustomed to viewing the world in visual terms. This means that in many situations, they will not be able to communicate orally and may resort to pointing or other gesturing. They may also use subtle facial expressions to convey feelings in social situations.

Calmly alert the sighted person to his or her surroundings by speaking slowly, in a normal tone of voice. There is no need to raise your voice when addressing a sighted person. Questions directed to the sighted person help them focus on verbal rather than visual and gestural communication.

How can I assist a sighted person?

At times, sighted people may need help finding things, especially when operating a motor vehicle. Your advance knowledge of routes and landmarks, particularly bumps in the road, turns and traffic lights, will assist the “driver” in finding the way quickly and easily. Your knowledge of building layouts can also assist the sighted person in navigating complex shopping malls and offices. Sighted people tend to be very proud of their wayfinding skills, and will not ask directly for assistance. Be gentle yet firm when giving directions to a sighted person.

How do sighted people read?

Sighted people read through a system called print. Print is a series of images drawn in a two dimensional plane. Because the person who is sighted relies exclusively on visual information, his or her attention span tends to fade quickly when reading long texts.

People who are sighted generally have a poorly developed sense of touch. Braille is completely foreign to the sighted person and he or she will take longer to learn the code and be severely limited by his or her existing visual senses.

How do sighted people use computers?

Computer information is presented to sighted people in a “Graphical User Interface” or GUI.

Sighted people often suffer from hand-eye coordination problems and poor memories. To accommodate these difficulties, people who are sighted use a “mouse,” a handy device that slides along the desk top to save confusing keystrokes. With one button, the sighted person can move around his or her computer screen quickly and easily.

People who are sighted are not accustomed to synthetic speech and may have great difficulty understanding even the clearest synthesizer. Be patient and prepared to explain many times how your computer equipment works.

How can I support a sighted person?

People who are sighted do not want your charity. They want to live, work and play along with you. The best thing you can do to support sighted people in your community is to open yourself to their world. These citizens are vital, contributing members of society. Take a sighted person to lunch today!!!

[The article originally appeared on the mailing list is sponsored by The National Federation of the Blind: Advocates for Equality. Call 1 800 561 4774 or visit the web site at]