Turn on the Lights for Those with Visual Impairment

Jackie Waters, 2017


Though vision loss is usually associated with advanced age – the majority of visual impairments do happen as we get older – it can happen to anyone. Visual impairment can cover a wide range of conditions and can range in severity from mild to total vision loss. When a loved one begins to suffer from visual impairment, it can seem like a tough road ahead.


To help a loved one cope with their new condition, it’s important to make their living space as comfortable as possible. The most important thing to consider when preparing a house for someone with a visual impairment is safety.


Houses are full of dangers that you don’t really notice if you have good sight. But take some of that away, and it can be difficult to navigate the twists, turns, and elevation changes in any home. Think about it this way: when it’s dark and you’re up to get a glass of water, how confident do you feel traipsing around your dimly-lit halls? Not very, I assume.


The biggest and frankly the simplest improvement you can make to your home is to brighten it up. Make sure every space in the house is equipped with adequate ceiling lighting or lamps. Increase the wattage of your light bulbs to provide more light for your visually-impaired loved one. Another good idea is to install large, easily accessible touch lights to dimly-lit places in the home. Make sure stairwells are properly lit. The chance of tripping, falling, or running into furniture is greatly increased by a visual impairment, so keeping the house bright is paramount.


Brightness isn’t the only component of light to consider, however. If a light is too bright and is positioned in the incorrect manner, it can end up causing glare. Lights can also reflect off mirrors and windows, so you have to be aware of just where the light is pointing. Opting for adjustable lamps allows better control over the direction and intensity of your lighting.


The type of lighting is also something to consider. Both fluorescent lights and halogen lights provide a great deal of light, but the former can sometimes lead to glare and the latter can get very hot, and both can potentially be a fire hazard, especially if your home has wiring issues. Opting for LED lights instead is a safer, more cost-efficient choice, as “the quality of light provided is excellent, the color of the light is not damaging to the eyes, and the longevity and cost of the lighting is attractive,” according to the Macular Degeneration Partnership.


Overhead lighting, while important, is not going to provide all the light necessary for someone with a visual impairment. Table and desk lamps are a must as they allow you to adjust the amount and oftentimes the direction of the light. This is essential for tasks like reading, knitting, sewing, writing, and anything that takes a lot of focus. They also provide more options for illuminating a room even if a light switch is out of reach, which makes navigating a space much safer and simpler. Think about it: if there are lamps accessible every few steps in high-traffic areas, you’re more likely to ensure that your path is always well-lit, greatly reducing the chance of a fall or another accident.


For these activities, it’s important to figure out the best place for the light. If you have one eye that’s slightly better than the other, you should position the light source on that side.


“What you don’t want is the light reflecting from the page into your eyes,” says Roy Cole, O.D. “To check this, turn the light off, place a mirror on the page being read, and see if the lamp appears in the mirror. If it does, reposition it. It should still be close to the page, and to the side of your face, but now perhaps at a slightly greater angle.”


There are more adjustments that must be made to the home other than lighting, but for a visually-impaired person, having the correct light is one of the most important things. Proper lighting helps the visually-impaired better complete work, tasks, and leisure activities – and most importantly, it helps them stay safe in their homes.


Photo Credit: Breakingpic, pexels.com