Home Modifications for the Visually Impaired and Blind
Visual impairment affects millions of people worldwide. There are two main categories of visual impairment: low vision and total blindness. Low vision refers to a significant loss of vision that cannot be corrected with glasses, usually 20/70 or poorer. At the same time, people who are legally blind have a vision of 20/200 or worse. Special equipment or modifications may be required to perform everyday tasks for those affected by moderate visual impairment (20/70-20/160) or severe visual impairment (20/200-20/400).
Meanwhile, those with profound visual impairment (legally blind, 20/500-20/1000) are usually able to recognize some forms and distinguish light from darkness. In contrast, total blindness is characterized by no light perception. While 85% of people with eye disorders have some remaining sight, only 15% are totally blind. Luckily, there are home modifications available to help aid all these individuals.
Home Modifications for People With Low Vision
Adjust the Lighting
Firstly, create a well-lit environment. Visually impaired individuals need more light than what's typically found in a home. Opt for brighter, higher-wattage bulbs to ensure your space has enough light throughout the day. Make sure to use dim or rheostats to adjust the light level based on needs. Floor and table lamps are also effective, providing task-specific light. Ensuring uniformity of the light sources throughout your living space can also help mobility and reduce glare.
Create an Organized Environment
Lastly, create an organized environment. Labeling and numbering items can help you to find objects more efficiently in your home. In addition, use drawer dividers and closet organizers to separate belongings into categories. Make sure to develop a system for food and toiletry items and teach family members the organizational strategy.
Eliminate Safety Hazards
Identify and eliminate any safety hazards that can cause falls, trips, or collisions. Check throw rugs, cords, and cables for potential risks and furniture placement. In addition, smooth out the edges of all pieces of furniture by using foam tape or curved corner guards to minimize the risk of injury.
With functionality and convenience in mind, rearrange the furniture in your living space to create well-defined pathways. Ensure furniture is not blocking any doorways or walkways and that it's located in areas with good air quality. It's also vital that your bed, couch, and chairs are placed strategically so they don't impede daily activities like cooking and cleaning.
Use Contrasting Colors
Given that visually impaired individuals can't differentiate colors as well, you want to use contrasting colors when possible. This will help visually impaired and blind people distinguish objects in their environment more efficiently and make navigation easier. For example, use bright-colored tape on the edge of your stairs or around door frames for additional visibility. You can also add fluorescent tape around white or light objects (such as a light switch) to achieve the same result.
Home Modifications for the Totally Blind
Give Your Home a Tactile Effect
Give your home a tactile effect by choosing furniture with textured upholstery, installing tactile markers in the kitchen and bathroom, using embossed letter stickers to distinguish between items, using rubber bands or other tactile aids to mark essential items for easy identification, and labeling anything that needs special identification with braille labels. This will help you identify furniture in different rooms by texture and make navigating your home more accessible, preventing many potential injuries.
Install Safe Flooring
To ensure safety while walking around the home, choose non-slip flooring and consider installing tactile warning strips and tiles to help you navigate your surroundings. Secure any loose area rugs, avoid slick surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom, and install warning textiles in front of doorways or any changes in level throughout the house. However, remember that such modifications may be slightly different depending on the type of home you have.
Remove Obstacles and Hazards
To ensure a safe and accessible home environment, removing any hazards and obstacles is essential. This could include anything from low-hanging lamps that can cause fires to furniture that isn't in the same place all of the time. Consider installing a phone entry system for your front door, keeping furniture in one place, putting walking canes in designated spots, labeling medicines and food with braille labels, putting cleaning products in a safe cabinet, avoiding a flat-topped stove in the kitchen, and instructing family members to close cupboard and closet doors.