For people with vision loss, modifying one’s home can create a safer, more navigable space to live in. “Most modifications are simple, inexpensive changes that you can implement right away or over time, depending on your needs,” says the Council’s Brent Perzentka, who is certified as both a vision rehabilitation therapist and an orientation and mobility specialist. “People with low vision — which describes vision that’s 20/70 or poorer and can’t be corrected — and people who have no usable vision can be at greater risk for injuries or accidents around the home,” Brent says.
Brent provided these tips to help ensure you or your housemate with vision loss can get around safely and locate things easily:
Ramp Up the Lighting
- Combine light sources using both natural and artificial light to illuminate your space. Customize lighting where specific tasks take place, such as cooking and reading. Point the lights at the task, not the eyes. Use gooseneck or flexible neck floor lamps, table lamps or movable clip-on lamps.
- Choose bulbs that emit the color of light that is ideal for your vision. LED lights are the most energy efficient and offer a brighter light for the same wattage. When shopping for bulbs, look at the lumen level. More lumens mean it’s a brighter light; fewer lumens mean it’s a dimmer light. If you are sensitive to glare, then look for softer color bulbs.
- Create uniform lighting with as few shadows and dark spaces as possible.
- Install adjustable blinds so that you can manage the light that comes in during the day.
- Set flashlights around key points throughout the house for times when you need a little extra concentration of light.
- Install additional lighting in dark places around your home, especially near steps. Battery operated lights that adhere to or can be screwed into a wall or cabinet are inexpensive options.
Arrange the Furniture
- Creating a smooth flow of traffic throughout the house helps prevent bumping into furniture.
- Arrange furniture to allow for wide pathways throughout your rooms.
- Position a chair next to a window for natural light for reading or knitting.
- Choose furniture with differently textured upholstery so it’s easy to locate by touch.
- Cover sharp corners on furniture to prevent injuries from catching an edge. Buy edge and corner protectors or cut foam pipe covers or pool noodles to cover corners and edges.
- Position mirrors so they don’t reflect bright lights.
Eliminate Safety Hazards
- Keep your home free of general clutter.
- Use double-sided rug tape to secure the edges of area rugs to the floor or use a rubber backing to secure the rug.
- Increase the visibility of exits with bright colors, exit lights or contrasting colors on the door or the frame.
- Make it a habit to push in all chairs when you’re done at your desk, dining room table or breakfast bar.
- Secure electrical cords behind electronics or furniture to keep them out of traffic routes.
- Install a hand railing on the stairs and grab bars in the shower and bathtub.
- Light your stairways brightly and paint or tape the edges of each step with reflective materials. Mark any other changes in floor level with bright, reflective colors.
- Replace smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries twice a year and develop and practice an evacuation plan.
- Move through your home at a slow and steady pace. If it is a new residence, use a cane until you are familiar with your new environment.
- Walk using a protective technique. This involves using one arm at head level extended about one foot with your palm facing out. You can also use your other arm at waist level extended with backside of your hand facing out for detecting objects that might be lower.
- When bending over to retrieve something from the ground, use the protective technique of having one arm extended about a foot in front of you with your palm facing out to avoid bumping your head into a sharp corner.
Feel free to contact the Council’s Vision Services team to discuss specific questions about your space, lighting needs and safe mobility in the home. You can reach us at 800-783-5213.