In Australia, there are an estimated 575,000 people with visual impairment, with over 70% of them being over the age of 65 years.

If you have a person with a visual impairment living with you, it’s important that you make your home a safe environment that’s easy to navigate.

Improving your home’s accessibility for a visually impaired individual isn’t just about making it easier to get around—it’s mostly about helping them become more independent and giving them the confidence to accomplish household tasks by themselves.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to make your home more accessible to the person under your care. The kinds of modifications you make to your home depend heavily on the degree of visual impairment the person under your care has.

Let’s take a look at six ways you can make your home more accessible for a person with visual impairment.

1. Add more lighting

If the person under your care has low-vision or legal blindness that still allows them to perceive shapes and light, increasing lighting in your home can help them manage their daily activities.

Install 100-watt light bulbs wherever necessary, like in the kitchen, study room, corridors, stairs, and bathrooms. Try to keep the lighting as uniform as possible, keeping dark areas and shades to a minimum.

To make light switches easier to find, paint them in a bright colour that makes them stand out from the rest of the wall. Also, as an added precaution, keep flashlights in easy-to-reach places throughout the house in case you need more concentrated lighting.

Having a lot of natural light will help too, so install adjustable blinds on your windows to let in plenty of sunlight during the day.

2. Assess the furniture arrangement

Make sure that the furniture is arranged in a way that allows wide, unobstructed paths for the person under your care to walk through.

Also, choose upholstery that has a texture, so that the person under your care can easily identify them by touch. This makes it easier for them to navigate or find a place for them to sit.

For a person with low-level blindness, place chairs near windows or sources of indoor lighting to help them with activities like reading

3. Remove any safety hazards

When improving your home’s accessibility for a visually impaired person, you need to consider safety too. Here are a few ways you can get rid of safety hazards in your home:

  • Try securing any carpets and rugs that can become potential trip hazards to the floor using double-sided tape to prevent them from folding in on themselves
  • Make sure to put any chairs back in their original places, like at the dinner table or your work desk, after using them
  • Keep any electrical cords tucked behind their respective equipment and away from high-traffic areas in your home
  • Install grab bars where necessary, like in the bathroom
  • Avoid using wax when you’re cleaning your floors, as it can make the floors slippery. Instead, consider using non-skid cleaners and make sure to keep your floors dry
  • Refrain from having low-lying furniture, such as coffee tables and bean bags, in your home. Similar to carpets and rugs, they can also become trip hazards

If you’re faced with an emergency where you’ll need to evacuate your home quickly, have an evacuation plan in place and practise it with the person under your care.

4. Install braille labels

Individuals with total blindness (this link will take you to a page on the HealthDirect website about blindness) rely on braille code to read and identify objects. Install braille labels throughout your home—near exits and entryways to rooms.

You’ll also want to label certain items in your home to make it easier for the person under your care to identify them. Fix the labels onto their personal possessions, like their mug, towels, and electronic devices.

Also, make sure to label potentially hazardous items in your home, such as prescription medications, which could be dangerous if swapped for the wrong thing.

5. Organise possessions

Try to keep the things the person under your care uses every day in places where they can easily find them.

Have boxes of different shapes and sizes to store their possessions. For example, you can store their electronic possessions in a square-shaped box, and their medication or personal care items in a circular one.

The person under your care can feel the shape of the boxes, and this will help them know which of their possessions are in them. Also, make sure that all of these containers are kept in the same place so that they will be easily accessible for the person under your care.

For kitchen items, keep all cutlery and vessels the person under your care uses in a storage space only they’ll use.

6. Make modifications to the kitchen

If the person under your care enjoys cooking, here are some modifications you can make to streamline their kitchen activities:

  • Store spices in wide-mouthed jars to make it easy for the person under your care to reach into them
  • Wrap all sharp kitchen utensils, like knives and forks, in paper towels to prevent injury from accidental touches
  • Use measuring cups that hold the exact amounts, such as 1 cup or half a cup measurements. Keep these cups inside sugar and spice containers to make them more accessible

Additionally, install tactile stickers or braille labels on drawers and stoves.

Discover more ways to improve your home’s accessibility for a visually impaired person

It can be challenging to figure out how to make your home safe and accessible to a person with visual impairment. There are many things to consider and sometimes, you might not be sure where to start.

With the help of an all-abilities service provider, however, you can discover many easy and cost-effective ways to improve your home’s accessibility for a visually impaired individual.

These service providers can also help you support the person under your care through services, like Supported Independent Living (this link will take you to a blog post on the Shine website about Supported Independent Living), group peer support, and support coordination.

Get in touch with your nearest all-abilities service provider today.

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