Do You Have a Neighbor Who Is Blind?

Here is how you can begin working toward inclusion.

by Roqayah Ajaj

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”

Helen Keller

Studies have shown that blind individuals often feel isolated and lonely, as they have challenges building relationships that would lead to inclusion in social activities in their communities (Brunes et al., 2019). Feeling isolated and lonely can lead to depression or other mental health challenges. You can make people who are blind feel safe, included, and welcome in your neighborhood. As research suggests, more social support will help decrease anxiety and mental illness among adults who are blind or visually impaired. Remember that inclusion is everyone’s responsibility!

Let me illustrate this point with a couple of stories.

Mohammad has just moved into a different student apartment building. He is excited to get to know his new neighbors and become part of the community. One of his first days there, he walks down the hallway and recognizes one of his neighbors, who he thinks is in his major and one year ahead of him. He says hi and introduces himself. The neighbor tells him his name is David. A few days later, Mohammad is waiting for the elevator. Another resident joins him. He smiles and says hello, introducing himself as Sami. After a few minutes of chatting, they realize that they are from the same country and the same city! Then they part ways, expressing interest in studying together one day. That Friday, Mohammad sees David again, as he’s walking out the front door of the building. David invites him to play board games that evening with his group of friends. At the gathering that night, Mohammad meets several other students with whom he thinks he’ll be able to get along well.

What if Mohammad were blind? Here’s an alternate storyline:

Mohammad has just moved into a different student apartment building. He’s a little bit nervous about being able to connect with his new neighbors, because he is blind, and people don’t seem to know how to interact with him in public spaces. One of his first days there, he walks down the hallway. He knows someone is walking in the other direction, but he doesn’t know who they are. They don’t say anything to him as they pass. A few days later, Mohammad is waiting for the elevator. Another resident joins him, but they stand there silently, so Mohammad doesn’t know if they are interested in making conversation. That Friday, though he’d rather be out socializing, Mohammad listens to an audiobook in his apartment.

If you live in a building or neighborhood where someone is blind, you can help them get socialized and become familiar with their new community by following these tips:

  • As well-intentioned as it is, an individual who is blind cannot see your smile as you pass. It’s better to verbalize a “Hello” to them. Introduce yourself. They will engage with you.
  • If you run into them again in the hallway or neighborhood, say, “Hello, this is… I’m your neighbor here. We met…” This way, they will get familiar with your voice and feel recognized and included. Here are some other ways of including your neighbors who are blind.
  • If you are aware of any community gatherings in the building or neighborhood, do not hesitate to invite your neighbor who is blind, even if you are unsure if they would be interested. To learn some ways to break the ice between the individual who is blind and the others who are present at the event, check out the ideas on this site.
  • Help them stay aware of what is changing in the building or neighborhood – share information about new construction or stores and restaurants that are opening.
  • Encourage your neighbors to keep the hallways clear to avoid creating obstacles that might become a tripping hazard for a neighbor who is blind.
  • If you are unsure of how to best help a neighbor who is blind, you can ask them!

These are my tips. What has worked for you in the past? I’m looking forward to hearing your input in the comments!


Brunes, A., Hansen, M. B., & Heir, T. (2019). Loneliness among adults with visual impairment: Prevalence, associated factors, and relationship to life satisfaction. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 17(24). doi:10.1186/s12955-019-1096-y

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