Human Guide Techniques
Orientation and mobility department faculty
California State University, Los Angeles
Click to hear Brenda Naimy describe how to use the human guide technique (time: 2:12).
Human Guide Techniques
Human guide techniques enable an individual to safely escort a person with a visual impairment in unfamiliar surroundings. The orientation and mobility (O&M) specialist will be able to provide training in use of human guide techniques for students and adults in the classroom. Below you will find directions for basic human guide techniques.
Ask the student if he or she would like to be guided. If the student does, touch the back of his or her hand so that the student can establish the proper grasp of the guide’s upper arm.
The student should grasp the guide’s upper arm, just above the elbow, with his or her fingers on the inside of the guide’s arm and the thumb on the outside. If the traveler is younger or smaller and cannot reach the guide’s arm, he or she may instead take hold of the guide’s wrist or even the index and middle fingers.
Proper Body Position
Both the guide and the student should hold their upper arms close to their bodies. This will automatically position the student one-half step behind the guide so that he or she can follow the guide’s body movements.
Changes in Surface or Elevation
The guide should offer verbal cues (descriptive information) whenever there are:
- Changes in ground surface, such as uneven sidewalk areas, slopes, or drop-offs (e.g., curbs, steps)
- Changes in direction
- Other irregularities that the student may encounter
Eventually, the guide and the student may be able to phase out the need for some verbal cues; however, it is better to err on the side of providing too much information as opposed to too little.
- The guide should always approach stairs directly, never at an angle.
- The guide should stop at the edge of the first step and be sure to cue the student that he or she is approaching stairs. The guide should also let the student know whether he or she will be ascending or descending.
- The student may feel more comfortable if he or she is positioned to hold the handrail as he or she travels up or down the stairs.
- The guide should ascend or descend first, and the student should follow one step behind.
- When the guide reaches a landing (the top or bottom of the stairs), he or she should alert the student and then cue the student that there is one step left.
When approaching a narrow area (e.g., a doorway, or crowded area), the guide should provide the student with a verbal cue (e.g., “It’s narrow here.”) When passing through the narrow area, the guide should move the arm the student is holding behind the guide’s back, thus directing the student to move directly behind the guide.
Guides should keep in mind to alert students:
- That he or she is approaching a door
- How the door opens
- That the door opens “toward us” or “away from us”
- That the door opens “to the right” or “to the left”
The guide will need to open the door and enter first, and the student should follow through the door behind. When possible, the student should assist both in holding the door open and in closing it.