While everyone's situation is a little bit different, here are some simple, low-cost changes you can make to the spaces your visually impaired loved one spends the most time in.
If their vision is gradually diminishing, you can start making these changes ahead of time for added convenience. If the vision loss is sudden or you have a child that is visually impaired, there are adaptive techniques you can learn to help your days go by smoothly.
If your loved one is living with visual impairment you will want to outfit your home in a way that will make life more efficient. Thankfully, many of these modifications are low cost and can be fairly easily implemented. It’s just a matter of knowing the basics and planning.
You will want to provide plenty of light in the areas of the home that are used for recreation, reading and socializing. Light should always be aimed at the point of focus, i.e., where you will be doing work, not at the eyes. Tips to help provide adequate lighting around the house include:
● Adding floor and table lamps around the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedroom. Clip-on lights can be placed strategically around the house for added convenience.
● Use lighting that is 60-100 watts. Replace burned out bulbs regularly so that you are able to see better.
● Allow for natural light throughout the home by using adjustable blinds or sheer curtains.
● Experiment with lighting to find out which works best for your individual needs. There is halogen, fluorescent, incandescent or flood lighting and most people will prefer different ones. It’s worth noting that fluorescent light does bother many visually impaired people.
● Make sure light is uniform throughout your entire hallway to more easily identify where it curves or ends.
Feeling safe inside your own home is important. There are a number of things you can do to prevent falls and other injuries—and most of them are quite simple. You can:
● Keep desk and table chairs pushed in and train your family to do the same. All of the time. No exceptions.
● Use non-skid, non-glare products to clean and polish your floors. Avoid waxing floors, which can make them slippery!
● Remove low-lying objects that might be trip hazards such as coffee tables and end tables.
● Ensure there are no cords in any of the pathways so that you don’t trip.
● Make sure electrical cords are removed from pathways or taped down securely.
● Tape down any area rugs you have and replace any worn carpeting or floor coverings.
● Keep all floors dry and wipe up any spills immediately.
● Install grab bars or safety rails in high-slip areas like your bathroom or on the stairs.
● Mark step edges with yellow reflective tape so that you can easily identify them.
● Always keep your fire extinguisher and first aid kit in the same, easily accessible place.
● Make sure all exits are marked with a bright, contrasting color in case of emergency.
● Have smoke and fire alarms checked often, and ensure they are loud enough that you can hear them in all areas of the house.
Keep the color principles top of mind as you prepare your home. Know that bright colors are often the easiest to see since they reflect light. Solid, brighter colors such as orange, red and yellow are more visible than their muted counterparts.
● Use brightly colored vases, lamps or sculptures to help identify where key pieces of furniture are.
● Avoid upholstery and rugs that are patterned. Stripes and checks can create confusion for some people who are visually impaired.
● Use color to indicate changes in surface level (such as on the stairs).
● Use contrasting colors to warn about places that may be hazardous or require extra attention (such as fluorescent tape on the inside of doors or cabinets that may be ajar).
● Color-code household items you use often or bills and documents you may need to work with. (Brightly colored post-it notes work great!)
● Use dark, solid colors as borders around white or light objects (such as a light switch). This will help it to stand out.
● Place dark objects (like chairs) in front of lighter colored walls which will also help these items to stand out.
● Avoid using clear glass dishes and cups, as they are more difficult to see.
● Paint door knobs and door frames a bright color so that they are easier to see.
● Use a different color of paint on the ceiling than the walls.
● Use solid (non-patterned) rugs to help you identify different areas of the home.
If you keep your home organized it will be easier to find things when you need them. It can also eliminate any tripping hazards and reduce frustration when doing everyday chores. Here are some tips to help you say organized:
● Label, label, label. Label everything in your home, from reusable bottles to hangers for clothing to on/off switches. You can even label cabinets!
● Use drawer dividers and closet organizers to separate clothing.
● Label clothing with the letter of the clothing color on the tag.
● Develop a system to keep food and toiletry items organized. Always keep these items in the same place and label them as necessary.
● Always keep chairs and other easily movable furniture in the same place.
● Use large numbered devices for telephones, timers, calculators or anything with numbers that need to be seen.
● Train family members to respect the organizational system you’ve developed. Explain to them why and how it helps you.
Home adaptations for visual impairments are meant to enhance your home and make it easy for you to do the daily tasks you need to do. We hope you found some of our ideas helpful and they make a positive difference in your life.
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