13 April 2021
author: Rocio Espinoza
If someone with a visual impairment lives with you — or if you’re facing some level of blindness yourself — modifying your home makes it easier to navigate and safer to live in. Most modifications are simple, inexpensive changes that you can implement right away or over time, depending on your needs.
People with low-level blindness — which describes vision that’s 20/70 or poorer and can’t be corrected — can only read the first, second, or third line on the standard Snellen eye chart from 20 feet away. Those with legal blindness have a visual acuity of 20/200 or poorer when wearing corrective lenses, which means they can only read the first, giant letter on the eye chart — or they can’t. or their visual field — the total area you can see without moving your eyes — is 20 degrees or less, a condition known as tunnel vision.
People who have low-level or legal blindness — whether it’s moderate, severe, or profound — can still perceive light and shapes, even if they can’t make out what an object actually is. Total blindness, though, is a complete lack of light and form perception. Roughly 15 percent of all people with an eye disorder experience total blindness.
How you modify your home for someone with a visual impairment depends on how you live and the degree of impairment. These tips will help you cover all of the most important bases to ensure you or your visually impaired housemate can get around and locate things easily.
(A picture of a blind woman reading a book in braille. On the table, there is a coffee cup. Behind her is a white Labrador dog.)
Implement these changes in every room to make your home safer and easier to navigate.
Bring in lots of light — natural and artificial — to make things easier to see. Install task lighting where the most important activities take place, such as cooking and reading, and point the lights at the task, not the eyes. Use floor lamps, table lamps, or movable clip-on lamps for flexibility.
Creating a smooth flow of traffic throughout the house helps prevent bumps and bruises resulting from running into furniture.
Good home organization can prevent the need for labeling everything in the house. Always put things back where they belong when you’re done using them so you can find them easily. Color-coding and tactile labeling helps visually impaired residents find certain items around the house with ease.
Keeping your home free of general clutter and eliminating simple safety hazards improves the safety of people with vision loss.
(a Picture of a white kitchen. In the back, you can see a stove which has two lights, one on the left and one on the right side. The sink is facing a stove. On the other side of the sink you can see two black chairs.)
Make the kitchen easy to use and navigate for your visually impaired housemate. Keep the countertops clear of clutter, and remove all obstacles in the room.
Bathroom modifications for the visually impaired should always include sturdy bars in the bath or shower and non-slip adhesive strips on the tub or shower floor. Set the water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to prevent accidental scalding.
(In the picture there is a young person sitting on the sofa with the white cane in hand. There is also a plant and a lamp.)
For people with total blindness, make the previously mentioned modifications for safety — tape the rugs, arrange the furniture, use tactile labeling, etc. Color and lighting changes won’t have an effect on someone with total blindness, since they can’t perceive light, color, or shape.
Braille labels and labelers are available from specialty retailers, including handheld labelers, large, pre-cut container labels, magnetic can labels, tactile sock sorters, clothing tags, and more. Don’t forget to label poisons, prescription drugs, and other items that could be hazardous if accidentally swapped out for the wrong thing.
An entry system that allows you to talk to people who come to your door is helpful for the blind and visually impaired, and some systems can even unlock the door so you don’t have to.
Slippery floors and loose carpeting are serious hazards for people with total blindness. Have your wood and tile floors coated with a non-slip overcoat, or install very low-pile, industrial-type carpeting that will prevent slips and trips. Use non-skid rugs for hard floors, and tape the edges down with double-sided tape.
A range of talking devices can make life much easier for people with blindness or a visual impairment. A talking color identifier can recognize around 100 colors, which makes getting dressed easier. A voice labeling system lets you record your voice on special cards that can be attached to canned goods, clothes, medication, and other items. When you touch the label with the recording/playback device, the label will identify the object audibly.
In these modern times, there’s virtually nothing someone with impaired vision or total blindness can’t do, thanks to a multitude of low-vision household devices that make activities of daily living easier.
(In the picture is a German shepherd and a person. You can see only the legs of the person and hands. The person is sitting down and reading braille. He has black boots.)
If you’re bringing a service dog into your home, make sure the animal has a comfortable environment that includes a place to sleep in your bedroom and a designated spot for food and water. Also:
Creating a safe home environment for the visually impaired and totally blind is essential for their safety and wellbeing, but optimizing your home for someone with low or no vision is also about making their life easier. There’s no reason why people who have vision loss shouldn’t be able to do everything around the house a seeing person can do, and making it happen is a simple matter of implementing safety features and accessibility devices and taking the time to properly light the home, label its contents, and keep things where they belong.
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