A visual impairment can strike a person at any age – whether it be from an accident or a medical condition. But when it comes down to it, vision loss is associated with age and we’re all fighting the clock. By the time you reach 65 years old, there’s around a one in three chance you’ll suffer from at least some form of visual impairment.
Most organizations that advocate for the blind and visually impaired suggest that two of the most important ways one can modify their home for someone with a visual impairment involve the increase of light and contrast. More light equals better vision and more contrast between furniture, walls, floors, and fixtures means better recognition and mobility.
In fact, there are many simple things you can do to make living with vision loss much more manageable.
- Replace your lights with brighter bulbs. Incandescent or LED might work better, as fluorescent has been known to cause glare for some suffering with vision loss. Buy lamps that offer adjustable necks so that light can be directed at the exact place it needs to be.
- Install specific lighting sources instead of simply relying on area and overhead lights. Put lights inside cabinets and closets. Install lights in stairways. You can even install motion lights around keyholes to make locking and unlocking doors much easier.
- Level door thresholds to reduce the chances of tripping. Tripping is a large concern for those with visual impairment, and there are some easy steps you can take to minimize this hazard. You can also get rid of thick area rugs – or if you must keep them use a no-slip floor mat to keep them in place. Tape all cords to the floor.
- Replace commonly-used appliances with models that feature larger lettering or more distinctive controls. Telephones, thermostats, and even basic on-off switches that feature large print and simple controls can help reduce confusion.
- If it fits within your budget, consider purchasing a voice-activated home assistant like this. Not only can it be convenient when wanting to play music or order pizza, but it can help you keep appointments, control your thermostat, and order groceries.
- Consider ramps where at all possible. It’s not feasible to install ramps or mechanical lifts inside most multi-story homes, but in the outdoor/patio area it can be a relatively inexpensive project. Instead of a pesky two or three steps leading up to a door or down into a backyard, think about installing a slope to further minimize the chances of a spill.
- If you have a swimming pool, look into getting accessibility equipment, which can enable a visually-impaired person to enjoy some fun in the sun without risking their safety.
- Buy a roll of high-contrast tape – maybe light red, green, or yellow. You can use this tape all around to house to provide quick contrast to any surface that needs to stand out. This includes but is not limited to doorways, individual stairs, handles and knobs, and corners and corridors.
If you’re looking to get started and don’t know which home modifications to prioritize, a recent study of people with macular degeneration-related vision loss highlighted the most important home modifications as follows. This is a great place to begin:
“The most important and functional modifications in relation to visual impairment from the perspective of the participants with AMD was the installation of handrails, non-slip matting, high contrast safety stair nosing between the nosing and the back of the stair tread, single lever taps, slip resistant flooring, chair lift, living in single-level housing and the use of motion sensors to turn on lights.”