A Guide to Home Modifications for the Visually Impaired – By Jackie Waters

If you find yourself needing to prepare your home for a person with a visual impairment, you may feel overwhelmed or confused about where to begin. It can seem daunting to make modifications to your home when you are concerned about your loved one’s safety and comfort. The good news is, there are several modifications you can make fairly quickly that will help your visually-impaired loved one feel secure in your home. Our guide will help you get started with the modifications.

Begin with the Most Lived-In Areas of Your Home

Rather than attempt to modify your entire home and property at one time, take a step back and think about which areas to prioritize. It’s best to begin with the most lived-in areas of your home. For example, many people faced with preparing their home for a loved one with a visual impairment begin with the kitchen because family gathers there often and it can be a dangerous place with sharp knives and cooking utensils and hot cooking surfaces. Other people begin in the bathroom because it is a room used several times a day and presents slipping and falling hazards. Sometimes, the best course of action is to ask your loved one which area of the home to begin making accommodations in first because he knows his needs better than anyone.

Eliminate Hazards

While some modifications like installing additional lighting, dimmer switches, and grab bars in bathrooms may take a little extra time, there are other modifications to eliminate hazards that you can complete quickly. After all, ensuring your visually-impaired loved one’s safety is a priority.

Begin by walking through each room of your home and around the outside of your home to identify hazards. Carefully check walkways indoors and outdoors for tripping hazards. If vegetation is blocking a sidewalk or reducing the effectiveness of outdoor lights, trim it back immediately. If there is a loose sidewalk stone, repair it as soon as possible. If you have worn or loose carpeting or floor coverings, repair or replace them immediately. You can tape down or remove worn area rugs as soon as you determine whether they are tripping hazards. Electrical cords that run through walkways should be taped down or removed immediately also.

Large pieces of furniture that encroach upon main traffic areas should be moved. If you do rearrange furniture, create small groupings that are easy to walk around and that foster conversation. Double-check your new room arrangements and make sure there is adequate lighting near furniture and in areas where tasks will be completed. Keep walkways open and make sure that all of your items have a designated place to reduce clutter and maintain organization.

Understand that the Process May Require Patience and Trial and Error

You will not make all your home modifications overnight. The process will require time and patience, and you should involve your visually-impaired loved one to determine which accommodations are working and which are not. For example, you may think it is helpful to place nightlights in hallways to illuminate dark areas at night, but the nightlights may cause a glare on shiny floors and make it more difficult for your loved one to see.

In fact, making accommodations that result in more glare from lights is a common mistake people make when modifying their homes for a person with a visual impairment. Rearranging rooms to allow in more natural light may help some people with low vision, but the glare from sunlight often becomes an issue for people with low vision who are light sensitive. It is better to place chairs with their backs to windows so sunlight falls over the person’s shoulder while he reads or completes tasks. It’s also a good idea to purchase shades or blinds that filter sunlight while reducing glare.

While you are making modifications to your home to accommodate your loved one with a visual impairment, be sure to keep the lines of communication open and discuss which accommodations are working and which are not. His safety and comfort are your top priorities, so be sure to put his needs first. Poor accommodations can be incredibly frustrating, as you might imagine. Frustration can lead to stress, and stress can lead to even worse problems. Try to improve your loved one’s quality of life as much as possible.

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