Navigating The Holidays With Low Vision

Holidays should be a time of fun and relaxation, but for some people, they are also a time of stress. If it is difficult for you to change your routine or navigate new spaces, the holiday parties, visiting guests, and unfamiliar foods can take some of the joy out of special activities. For people with low vision, these factors can make it harder to enjoy the holidays, but it doesn’t have to keep you from participating with your friends and family.

Cooking For A Crowd

Everyone has a different comfort level with cooking. Some people find it a major accomplishment to do anything beyond warm up a microwave meal. Others enjoy being an amatuer chef. No matter where you fall on that spectrum, it is likely that at some point during the holiday season you will be asked to cook something. Whether it’s a full meal or just a batch of cookies, you’ll feel better if you’re prepared to work in the kitchen.

Low vision doesn’t have to affect your culinary skills. Our article What’s Cookin’: Kitchen Aids for the Visually Impaired goes more in-depth about your options. There are apps, appliances, and kitchen gadgets available that make cooking easier. Videos of the show, Cooking Without Looking, are available online to give you tips and tricks.

Adjusting The Lighting

If you are traveling over the holidays, it can be difficult to make sure other people’s homes are arranged in a way that is optimal for navigating with low vision. While you can’t control everything, one thing you can adjust is the lighting.

First, speak to your host about their lighting situation. If they are able to add extra lighting to your room or other areas of the house you will be using, then that might be helpful. Floor lamps can be easily moved for temporary lighting. You may also want to consider packing a few extra night lights to help find your boundaries in hallways and bathrooms. And try to reduce disorienting glare from TV or computer screens by turning them out of the way of direct sunlight.

Reducing Clutter

We all want our homes to be clutter-free, but it is especially important for those with low vision. Clutter can cause them to be overwhelmed, visually, or it can cause physical danger by posing a tripping hazard. If you are going to be at a party or family function, talk to your host ahead of time to make sure there isn’t anything in the space that may accidentally cause you harm.

Rugs, cords, and low tables can all be tripping hazards. These things should be moved to the side or eliminated from the common areas you will be sharing. Surfaces should be cleared of everything but essential items. Keep items such as TV remotes or toothpaste in the same consistent spot. This will help you find them later on.

Providing Visual Contrast

Asking your host to provide visual contrast can also help you find your way in unfamiliar places. One example of using visual contrast is hanging dark towels in a light bathroom. The contrasting towel color will make it easier for you to find the hand towel, and less likely you will fumble around, searching with wet hands.

When at the table, use placemats to designate the seating areas and add contrasting colored plates to help with locating your meal. Light plates on a dark mat would make a nice contrast, and reduce the likelihood that you will put your fork down on the linens, which might be more likely to happen if you have a white tablecloth paired with a light colored dish set.

Difficulties during the holidays can be avoided with a little planning. Think about the tasks that give you the most trouble and start putting helps in place to address those issues before the hustle and bustle of the holiday event arrives.


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