Vision Loss: What to Avoid in the Home
by Guest Editor Caroline James
Nothing can turn a once-safe home into a constant hazard like a visual impairment. Household items and living arrangements that never would’ve given pause before suddenly become dangerous to anyone suffering from mild to severe vision loss. Before equipping your home with new accessibility products for a loved one with vision problems, you must rid the house of any potential dangers.
Here’s a list of what to avoid if you or a family member begins to suffer vision loss. If you make some of these simple adjustments, you’ll be well on your way to providing a safe, comfortable home for those in need.
– Mirrors and direct lighting
Proper lighting is one of the best ways to make a home more accessible for those with visual impairment, but you have to be cognisant of the intensity of that light and where it’s pointed. Lighting sources directly pointed at mirrors can create dangerous glare for anyone with vision loss. Opt for lights with necks or swivels that allow you to direct light exactly where you want it, and away from where you don’t.
– Loose cords
When you have good vision, it’s easy to step over loose cords in the home – whether they be from lamps, electronics, or extension cords. But these pose a dangerous tripping hazard for anyone with low-level sight. If you must run long cords across rooms make sure they are taped down and rolled up to minimize slack.
– Monochromatic furniture and decor
Brown rug. Brown throw pillows. Brown couch. This is not a good combination for people with visual impairment. Home decor needs contrast. Vision loss advocates recommend different colors, patterns, and textures.
“Contrast comes in handy throughout the living room. Pillows and throws should contrast sharply with the furniture they are placed on—different colors, patterns, and textures. Choose furniture fabric that contrasts with the floor material, or use a bright-colored piping along the edges of seat cushions. The carpet or other floor covering, windows, and exits should contrast with walls,” says the American Foundation for the Blind.
– Slippery surfaces and products
Non-slip reigns supreme in households where someone suffers from vision loss. Rugs without non-slip mats are a definite no-no. Hardwood and tile floors that are too polished can easily lead to falls. And that cookware? Make sure all cutting boards and cutlery have non-slip gripping surfaces.
Like cords on the floor, clotheslines are easy to avoid with proper vision. But take that away, and you can risk serious injury. Always hang clothes above head level – both inside and outside the house.
– Unguarded sharp implements
If you’re suffering from milder vision loss, handling things like razors and knives without a large degree of danger can be possible, but as vision loss worsens, steps must be taken to replace sharp home essentials with tools that have safeguards in place. Straight razors should be swapped for electric models. Knives can be used less frequently, and one can opt for chopping devices that protect the user from the blade and can operated with ease. Nail clippers and files are much safer than scissors.
– Obstructive foliage
It might be pretty, but overgrown trees, bushes, and shrubs can pose a potential hazard in the home or garden. Make sure all outdoor pathways are clear of branches, as someone with a visual impairment can easily run into them and cause serious injury. It might pay to hire professional help, if it’s in the budget!
Ridding the home of potential hazards is a great step to modification for the visually impaired. Just remember to pay special attention to lighting, colors, obstacles, and slippery surfaces. You can make your home safe if you keep these things in mind.