Obviously it's wrong to talk to a guide dog instead of the person:

Don't talk to then guide dog instead of the blind person, this is insulting and the dog never answers.

For some reason I was taught that you don't discuss a guide dog with a blind person, as it focuses on their disability and it's better to make small talk about other things. This is when you may encounter a blind person you do not know.

In our neighbourhood we have quite a few blind people and sometimes people will get to know each other's voices and say hi in the street or the shops.

I was thinking, if I see a person with a dog, we'll usually discuss the dog, as they're usually cute and interesting.

I was in a shop and a blind lady didn't have her dog, she was using a cane. She started up a chat, as my son was being cute and she asked how old he was. I then asked where her dog was and instantly I felt bad. (I'd broken this invisible rule - I'm not sure where it came from).

When starting up a chat with a blind person should one avoid discussing their dog?

  • I'm going to close this question as off-topic because IPS policies have changed since this question was asked. We've decided that questions that ask whether or not something is okay, rude, appropriate, inappropriate, offensive or anything else are too subjective for this stack. See also the help center.
    – Tinkeringbell
    Oct 4, 2018 at 17:57

2 Answers 2


There isn't any reason you should be hesitant to ask about the service animal as long as you keep a few things in mind.

  1. While they are pets, when they are working, they are an extension of the person. Do not pet them, do not speak to them, do not feed them, do not distract them.

  2. There is no majority consensus on if you should avoid asking to pet them or anything, but asking is always preferred over anything else. See 1.

  3. You should not refrain from treating the person any differently than you would another person without vision impairment. They are not invalids, they are not less than normal people. To use a slightly cringeworthy phrase, they are just differently able.

To that effect, you can ask the same type of questions about the service animal as you would any other, as long as you observe section 1 above. And you should not avoid using normal language around blind people. There is a difference between using common phrases or expressions and intentional rudeness. Avoid these plain speech words would mean you are treating the blind as fragile incapable things, or "othering" them. You would intentionally be excluding them from normal human interaction because of their disability. In essence, by avoiding normal speech you are doing exactly what you are trying to avoid, bring attention to their blindness.


I've never avoided mention of the guide dog when there was something I felt like saying, such as remarking on its excellent behavior, or its absence. To my way of thinking the dog is a partner and a friend, and someone they have put a lot of trust into, so it's as appropriate, or in appropriate, to discuss the dog as it would be to discuss their life-partner, given the same circumstances. I.e.: If you know them well enough to talk about their family in a casual manner, then talking about the guide dog is also appropriate. Don't talk to the dog as you would their partner or family member, but talk about it at the same level of familiarity as you would a family member. To people who rely on service animals the animal is as much family, sometimes more so, as their partner, parents, or children.

What I do avoid is comments about the dog being cute, good looking, or other visual attributes and comments. Discussing visual cues with someone who obviously doesn't see the same way I do seems improper. Things about the dog that are visual are not the only limits. I also avoid saying things about the sunset, the colors of the flowers and cars I see, or how "good" lunch looks. It reminds them of the differences they have from you, and other so-called normal people. (Though I've never personally met Mr. Normal, or anyone else in the Normal Clan, and don't think they exist.)

Side note on this. I have known some blind people who appreciated conversations and descriptions of visual stimuli. Especially those not born blind but who have accepted their sight loss and are positively "back in life." They still appreciate what they have lost, but are not depressed, or offended, when the conversation turns "visual."