A visual deficit, such as vision loss, can be difficult to come to terms with and you might need to make a number of changes to help you in your everyday life.
One of the major issues you might face is that home doesn’t feel like the safe haven it once was—dangers you had never thought of before suddenly lurk around every corner. But by making a few small changes, you can remain in control, boost your confidence, and hold on to your independence.
Here are some simple ideas for keeping you safe at home.
1. Eliminate tripping and slipping hazards
Slipping and tripping are possibly two of the greatest risks for people who have vision deficits. To help prevent these kinds of accidents, remove loose rugs and small non-essential items of furniture such as side tables, floor plants, and magazine racks. Make sure extension cables are fixed to the wall and keep electrical cables tidy with zip ties, tape, or a cable tidy. Consider having non-slip stair treads installed or use coloured non-slip tape to highlight the fronts of the stair treads.
2. Highlight electric sockets
Though many people prefer electric sockets that blend in with the wall colour, they’re not easy to see if you have a visual deficit. Consider changing the mains socket covers to a colour that contrasts with the wall, or for a quick low-budget fix you could use coloured insulating tape around the edges, for example, use blue or black tape around the socket edges in a room with light walls.
3. Improve the lighting around the house
Lighting can have an intense impact on the ambience of your home—but improving the level of lighting in your home can help you to make maximum use of your remaining sight. Shadowy corners and poor lighting can increase the chance of accidental knocks and reduce your ability to navigate safely. Incandescent or full spectrum spotlamps with flexible goosenecks can help with close work such as reading, writing, or computer work, while halogen lights are not recommended for people with vision loss. Do check for areas of glare when you make improvements to the lighting in your home though, as they may cause discomfort, safety issues, and even interfere with your daily activities. Click here to to get more tips on lighting.
4. Enhance colour contrast
Use enhanced contrast—light colours against dark backgrounds and vice versa—to make it easier to find and see items around the home. For example, if you have white cupboards in the kitchen, try using dark crockery to create contrast and make the dishes easier to find. In the dining room, use contrast between placemats and plates, for example. There are lots of ways of creating contrast using dark and light colours to make everyday life easier. Visionaware.org has some great ideas on enhancing contrast around the home. Neuro-Eye Therapy uses high contrast images to improve vision, find out more here.
Improve safety and make it easier to find things by decluttering your home. Get rid of anything lying around that you don’t really need, tidy up as you go along, and make sure everything has its own place. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of keeping internal doors either open or closed to help you navigate safely around the home.
6. Improve kitchen safety
Many people with vision loss find it difficult to judge how much hot water to pour into a cup from the kettle. To avoid spilling or even scalding, it might be easier and safer to fill the cup with cold tap water and heat it in the microwave before adding a teabag or coffee. Remember to close drawers and cupboards when you’re finished with them to avoid unexpected bumps when you return to the area later on. Always clean up any spills immediately. Last but not least, make sure hazardous household chemicals are clearly labeled and stored separately away from food and drinks to avoid accidental poisoning.
7. Be prepared in an emergency
Although everyone should make sure their fire and CO alarms are working properly, it’s even more important to install alarms and regularly check the batteries if you have vision loss so that you will become immediately aware of potential dangers. And make sure you know what to do in an emergency. For example, if you don’t have a mobile phone, make sure that you know where the landline handset is and always keep the door keys in a safe and accessible place.
8. Electricity and plumbing
Mains water valves and electricity switches are often found inside dark cupboards or under floorboards, making them exceptionally difficult for you to find if you have vision loss. So if you don’t know where they are already, get someone to show you and demonstrate how to switch them on and off. Keep a powerful torch in a handy place to help you maximise your vision in an emergency. It’s also a good idea to have emergency numbers for an electrician and a plumber clearly written out and posted on a noticeboard or the fridge door.
9. Ask visitors for ID
It’s never a good idea to open the door to strangers – even less so if your vision loss is well-known in the community. When an unknown visitor arrives, keep your doors locked until they have identified themselves and you are satisfied that they have a genuine reason to be visiting you.
10. In the garden
Although it’s great to get outside and enjoy some fresh air and a bit of sunshine (with any luck!), the garden can be a risky place if you have a visual deficit—jagged branches, garden furniture, children’s toys, abandoned tools, and meandering pathways are all hazards to be aware of. If you have a garden, make sure that low hanging branches are cut down, and tools/toys are tidied away after use. Contrasting coloured strips fixed along the edges of pathways might help prevent stumbling or tripping as you navigate around the garden.