How to make your home more accessible

Simple, inexpensive modifications can make your home safer for loved ones living with visual impairment

A living room in a bright, sunny house

No matter what kind of home you live in, there are simple and inexpensive ways to make it safer and more accessible for family members with visual impairments. Here are commonsense tips for every room in your house. Photo from Pixabay.com.

January 20, 2017

Modifying one’s home for a loved one with visual impairment doesn’t have to break the bank.

Sure, there are plenty of high-tech products out there to help adapt the home for those with low vision. Recent products to hit the market like personal home assistants can make everyday tasks much easier. Voice-activated timers, alarms and lighting systems can also help, if it’s within your budget.

But there are also so many cheap and even free ways to better equip a house for those living with vision loss, from mild to severe.  Let’s break it down room by room with some tips for making your home safe and suitable.

The kitchen

The kitchen can be the scariest room in the house for someone with vision loss. It’s intimidating. Cooking, and even simple tasks like getting a glass of water, can seem daunting, depending on the level of visual impairment.

When it comes to cooking, there’s no reason to make it hard on yourself. Cooking over open flame might be too much, so opt for easier methods of cooking – like slow cooking. Products like the Instant Pot take a lot of the work out of preparing meals. You can use it as a pressure cooker, a traditional slow cooker, a rice cooker or a steamer. You can even sauté in it. The amount of cooking you’ll do in it will make the price tag worth it over time.

The bedroom

Organization is key when it comes to clothing, jewelry and accessories. It’s important to make sure you group items and store them in ways that utilize tactile clues. Some suggestions include storing different clothing items in different-sized boxes, so you’ll always know where your socks are, or where your shirts are, based on feel. You can also use common household items like egg cartons to organize jewelry. Color coordination with high-contrast colors can help you identify clothing in low light.

The bathroom

Let’s face it: the bathroom is the one place you’re most likely to visit in the middle of the night. Vision loss is even worse in dim light, so it’s very important to have reliable sources of illumination. One cheap way to ensure that there will always be light wherever you are is to install a few motion-sensor lights. That way, when you first walk into the room, you’ll have at least some light immediately. Stick-anywhere battery-powered models are inexpensive and LED lights will reduce glare.

The living room

When it comes to the main living area, a little bit of color goes a long way. Simply utilizing some paint in targeted areas will help a person with visual impairment navigate and avoid trips and bumps. Any way you can provide contrast, such as painting doorways in colors that contrast with walls, or painting doorknobs in contrast to doors, will help immensely. If you’re looking for a cheap product that could end up preventing injury, a non-slip floor mat is the best $10 you can spend.

Hallways and stairways

For just a few dollars, you can help a loved one with visual impairment navigate hallways and stairways with more ease. Some textured, brightly colored tape, placed on the lip of stairs, door frames and wall edges can provide enough contrast to show where one thing ends and another begins – drastically reducing the chance of a nasty fall.

When modifying your home for someone with vision loss, it’s best to imagine yourself navigating in low-light conditions. What would you want to have more clearly defined? It doesn’t always have to cost a fortune – many small changes can provide a world of good.

About the author: Jackie Waters runs Hyper-Tidy.com, which offers tips and suggestions to create a clean, beautiful home. Her family recently made their home, an old farmhouse, accessible when her husband’s sister, who has been visually impaired since childhood and uses a guide dog, moved in with them.