Everyone knows that a clean home (or other environment) is preferable over a not so clean home. For persons with visual impairments a well labeled and organized home could mean the difference between being able to live independently or not. Product information linked within each section of this blog comes from ILA with most all other information coming from The Council of Schools and Services for the Blind (COSB).
Create an Organized Environment
If you keep your home organized, it will be easier to find things when you need them. It can also eliminate any tripping hazards and reduce frustration when doing everyday chores. Here are some tips to help you say organized:
- Label, label, label. Label everything in your home, from reusable bottles to hangers for clothing to on/off switches. You can even label cabinets!
- Use drawer dividers and closet organizers to separate clothing.
- Label clothing with the letter of the clothing color on the tag.
- Develop a system to keep food and toiletry items organized. Always keep these items in the same place and label them as necessary.
- Always keep chairs and other easily movable furniture in the same place.
- Use large numbered devices for telephones, timers, calculators or anything with numbers that need to be seen.
- Train family members to respect the organizational system you’ve developed. Explain to them why and how it helps you.
Give Your Home a Tactile Effect
Adding tactile elements to your interior design can help you use your sense of touch to navigate your house with ease. There are several things you can keep in mind when designing your home or that you can easily modify after the fact. You should:
- Buy furniture that has textured upholstery. This will allow you to recognize furniture in different rooms by their texture.
- Use tactile markers/stickers in your kitchen and bathroom to let you know where things are located and when to use caution.
- Use embossed letter stickers to help you distinguish between different things. For example, an “F” could let you know you are turning on the living room fan.
- Mark toothbrushes or other important items with rubber bands or other tactile aids so that you can easily identify them.
- Use braille labels for anything that needs special identification.
If there is some usable vision you can use a magnifying glass to identify the foods in your kitchen; however, if you can’t see that well then there are a few modifications you can implement:
- Use braille labels to mark foods and medicines, especially if they can pose some kind of danger (like if you are allergic or need to take a specific dose).
- Use rubber bands to identify certain food or medicine items. Place a different number of rubber bands on each different container.
- Use brightly colored and labeled index cards to label items around the kitchen.
- Use pipe cleaners, velcro, velour pads or foam alphabet letters to label different things (like canned goods).
- Learn to identify kitchen items by their weight, location, sound, size, or shape.
Use Contrasting Colors
Keep the color principles top of mind as you prepare your home. Know that bright colors are often the easiest to see since they reflect light. Solid, brighter colors such as orange, red and yellow are more visible than their muted counterparts.
It’s important to keep in mind that dim light can wash out certain colors, while bright light can amplify them. Test what works best for you, and use contrasting colors to make the areas of your house easier to distinguish.
- Use brightly colored vases, lamps or sculptures to help identify where key pieces of furniture are.
- Avoid upholstery and rugs that are patterned. Stripes and checks can create confusion for some people who are visually impaired.
- Use color to indicate changes in surface level (such as on the stairs).
- Use contrasting colors to warn about places that may be hazardous or require extra attention (such as fluorescent tape on the inside of doors or cabinets that may be ajar).
- Color-code household items you use often or bills and documents you may need to work with. (Brightly colored post-it notes or textured paint work great!)
- Drape a brightly colored blanket or towel in a contrasting color on the back of your favorite chair or your spot on the couch.
- Use dark, solid colors as borders around white or light objects (such as a light switch). This will help it to stand out.
- Place dark objects (like chairs) in front of lighter colored walls which will also help these items to stand out.
- Avoid using clear glass dishes and cups, as they are more difficult to see.
- Paint door knobs and door frames a bright color so that they are easier to see.
- Use a different color of paint on the ceiling than the walls.
- Use solid (non-patterned) rugs to help you identify different areas of the home.
Adjust for Housekeeping and Laundry
Even simple chores like laundry can take longer than necessary if you don’t have some modifications in place. There are a few things you can do to make life easier:
- Place tactile stickers on the dials and commonly used settings of your washing machine and dryer. If you share a household, you can use transparent stickers to make sure the rest of your family can see the dials as well.
- Pin your socks together with sock locks before putting them away, and teach your family to do the same.
- Load the dishwasher from back to front and remember to always load knives and forks point-side down.
- Place safety pins in clothing of the same color or label clothing with a letter of clothing color on the tag.
- Place dividers in drawers and closets to separate different kinds of clothing.
- Label all cleaning supplies with braille or felt letters so that you know what you are cleaning with at all times. The WayAround labeling system is another great option to do this. (The WayAround product line is a combination of smartphone app and physical WayTags™ that allows you to tag and label nearly everything in your environment.)