If you have a visually-impaired family member coming to stay with you for any period of time, you should make a few modifications to prepare your home for his stay. Some home modifications will help him feel more independent and confident, and others will help prevent falls and accidents. Of course, you can make modifications that fit any budget, and we share a few suggestions below to help you prepare your home for a visually-impaired family member.
Evaluate Your Home’s Current Condition
There may be some aspects of your home that you don’t realize could pose a challenge to a loved one with a visual impairment. That’s why the first step of preparing your home for him should be a walk-through to determine potential hazards and problem areas. Try to walk through your home as though you are in the shoes of your loved one. If there is a piece of carpeting that is worn and trips you, now is the time to repair or replace it because it poses a tripping hazard to your loved one. If you go out of your way to avoid bumping into a chair leg that is in the walking path of our living room, rearrange your furniture to eliminate the hazard.
Try walking through your hallway or up your stairs at night without turning on any lights. Is there any clutter that blocks your way or trips you? Organize your belongings and put everything in a designated place, or if you find that your home is overly cluttered, consider moving some items to your garage or into storage. Should there be a night light in your hallway to make corners more visible? Install one wherever there needs to be more lighting. Are there cords running across the floor that will trip your loved one? Move them or tape them along the baseboard to eliminate potential falls.
Remember to Check the Exterior of Your Home
Your loved one will spend time outdoors, so you need to make home modifications outside as well as inside. Again, evaluate your property from the perspective of your loved one. Try to walk on your sidewalk at night. If vegetation trips you or blocks sidewalk lights, trim it. Add a handrail to both sides of stairways, especially those leading to decks and porches. Add exterior lighting to increase visibility in the driveway and the yard.
Lighting plays a major role in helping people with a visual impairment complete tasks and avoid accidents. Resist the urge to put bright lights and the highest wattage light bulbs in every fixture in your home. People with visual impairment often have light sensitivity and do not need abundant amounts of light. Rather, they prefer natural light and often require sheer window coverings or adjustable blinds so they can filter and redirect light as needed.
Add lighting to areas where your loved one with a visual impairment will complete tasks and spend time reading or working on a hobby. Task lighting is recommended, as are lamps with adjustable necks and those with shades that help direct the light to work areas. Your loved one also may require specialized lamps or bulbs to increase contrast and reduce glare; work with him and his doctor to determine what you need to do to make the lighting in your home work for him.
Glare also poses a problem for people with visual impairments. Arrange furniture so that the back is to windows and light falls over the person’s shoulder. Reposition mirrors and glass-fronted cabinets that reflect the sun’s light or lamp light and produce a glare. Avoid using products that make your floors and tabletops shiny. Again, sheer window coverings and adjustable blinds are helpful in reducing glare.
Preparing your home for a loved one with a visual impairment should begin with you evaluating the inside and outside of the home from his perspective. Then, make accommodations to prevent tripping and falling and increase lighting to improve visibility.