Improving Home Safety for Individuals with Visual Impairments
Vision loss occurs gradually as we age. The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that the leading cause of vision loss is Cataracts. Cataracts affect half of the individuals who are 75 years or older. More accidents happen inside the home than anywhere else, even for individuals who are not blind or otherwise visually impaired. Consequently, it’s imperative that everyone develops and maintains strong safety habits in and around the home. For those who are starting to experience vision loss, this is especially true.
There are many practical and inexpensive ways of making a home safer for individuals with visual impairment.
Lighting and Glare Reduction
- Make sure their home is well lit, with high-wattage light bulbs and additional lamps or task lighting. The kitchen, bathroom and work areas all should be fully and evenly illuminated.
- Under-counter lighting is another type that works well for illuminating the kitchen and other larger work areas.
- Different qualities of light (more white or yellow, for example) might make it easier to see depending on the type of vision loss someone lives with. It is beneficial to determine which types of bulbs produce the best kind of lighting to help your loved one see most clearly.
- Consider adding gooseneck or clip-on lights to provide adjustable lighting options in work areas.
- Keeping lights on during daytime hours helps to equalize lighting from both indoor and outdoor sources.
Reduce Fall Risks
- Eliminate small throw rugs.
- Keep electrical cords as close to the baseboards as possible and out of walkways.
- Keep floor lamps and small items such as low tables, magazine racks, and plants out of walkways.
- Clean up spills immediately. If you forget the spill is there, it could become a slipping hazard.
- Make sure your bath mat has a non-skid backing.
- Look for items that come with larger buttons and print. These items include books, clocks, calendars, checkbooks, remote controls and much more.
- Magnifiers come in handy for items that do not come in large print.
- Create a list of important phone numbers in large print on bold-lined paper. Include doctors, transportation, and emergency contacts, and put the list in a convenient place.
- Clearly, mark stove dials and label all medications.
- Label cleaning and toxic products to make them easily identifiable, and store them and any flammable or combustible items away from the kitchen or heating units.
Contrasting Colors are Key
For people with low vision, it is often difficult to find doorways, outlets, furniture, and stairs
- Choose outlet covers whose colors contrast with the color of the wall
- Select towels with colors that contrast with the bathroom wall and kitchen cabinets or stove
- Cups, plates, bowls, and utensils of a color that contrasts with the table and countertop aids in food preparation and dining
- Utilize cutting boards whose color contrasts with the food item: dark cutting boards for light foods like onions and cheese; light cutting boards for dark foods like tomatoes and apples.
- Pick area rugs that have a solid color. Patterns can make it difficult for the visually impaired to identify edges.
- Mark stairs or slopes with brightly colored tape. Eye-catching colors that contrast with the flooring work best.
- Suggest purchasing a large-screen television that produces high-contrast images.
- Use brightly colored, fluorescent tape to mark the settings you typically use on your thermostat.
- Remove unnecessary household clutter. Offer to help with organizing important items and packing up others.
- Organize cupboards and specify exact locations for important things. If the cereal is always on the middle shelf of the pantry, for example, your loved one will not need to strain to try to determine if it is cereal or something else.
- Set up consistent places for mail, keys, and other important items.
- Use markers to print large labels for such everyday items as cleaning or cooking supplies. Be sure to keep cleaning supplies separate from food storage areas.
Routine Eye Exams
Routine eye exams are essential to make sure you are wearing the best vision correction possible.
Bursack, Carol Bradley. “How to Make Life Easier and Safer for Seniors with Low Vision.” Legal Documents To Make Healthcare Decisions for Elderly Parents – AgingCare.com, Aging Care, 3 May 2018.
Heiting, Gary, and Marilyn Haddrill. “Tips for Coping With Vision Loss.” All About Vision, June 2017.
Nesburn, Anthony B, and Judith Delgado. “Vision Loss and Blindness.” Selected Long-Term Care Statistics | Family Caregiver Alliance, Family Caregiver Alliance, 2008.
“Safety in the Home.” Continue Painting with Vision Loss – VisionAware, American Foundation for the Blind, 2018.