Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Friday, February 03, 2017

How to Help a Loved One with a Vision Impairment set Up a Safe Home

The following article was sent to us by someone who made adjustments to her home to accommodate a relative with low vision who moved into the home. We will include a bit of background information provided by the author, her article, and three resources she mentions in it. You may add comments offering other suggestions if you wish. The specific accommodations will vary depending on the type and size of the home; nevertheless, this article provides a detailed description of what one family did to modify aspects of their home to assist a visually impaired relative who came to stay in that home. Here is her information and story.
My name is Jackie Waters, and I am a mother of four beautiful and energetic boys. I live with my family on our three acre hobby farm in Oregon. 
My husband’s sister, who has been visually impaired since childhood, recently came to live with us. While we were excited to welcome her to our home, we knew our old farmhouse presented a lot of potential obstacles and hazards for her. So, my husband got to work tackling home repair projects, and I got to work organizing and rearranging to make our home more accessible for her and her guide dog.

How To Help A Loved One With A Vision Impairment Set Up A Safe Home

living-room-1952072_640 (1).jpg

Photo via Jill111
Our homes are a place of comfort and safety -  the place we go at the end of the day to relax and spend time with family. But for individuals living with a vision impairment, home can also be a hazardous place full of hidden dangers. If you have a loved one who is experiencing vision loss, it’s important to talk to them about what their specific needs are and help them modify their home to be more accommodating and safe for the coming years.
There are many things to think about, so start with the big ideas and work down to prevent being overwhelmed. For instance, changing lighting and furniture placement is key and will take some planning with your loved one. Figure out their regular paths through the home and help them determine where items would be the most useful.
Here are some other ways you can help your loved one with a vision impairment.
Organize the kitchen
The kitchen is one of the most dangerous places in the home, so it’s important to keep things well organized and brightly-lit. Pots and pans, utensils, and dishes that are used most often should be kept near one another. Pantries and cupboards should be neatly organized, with like items on the same shelves.
A fire extinguisher should be kept near the stove at all times, with stove knobs marked in brightly colored tape to minimize confusion. Cleaning products and bug spray should be kept well away from food items.
Prevent falls
Hardwood floors should be treated with a non-slip wax, while throw rugs should be eliminated altogether as they’re trip hazards. Stairs should be marked with brightly colored tape and should also be well-lit to take care of shadows and prevent falls.
Depending on the type of lighting in the home, glares can be created on flooring and other surfaces, which can cause disorientation or falls. To minimize this risk, curtains can be replaced by mini-blinds. It’s also important to make sure that the locks work properly on all windows and that the window itself is properly installed to prevent the leakage of hot or cold air.
Painting the walls a dark color to contrast with the white sink and toilet can be very helpful for those living with visual impairment. Non-slip mats should be placed on the floor and in the tub, as well as a removable shower head and grab bar. It might also be helpful to install a landline phone in the bathroom in case of emergency.
Service dog
If your loved one lives alone or is very independent, it can be extremely helpful to have a service dog, especially for trips outside the home. Much more than pets, these animals are useful companions who can help navigate through a busy intersection or the grocery store, giving those living with a visual impairment more mobility.
About the photo
The photo shows the image of a living room taken from the inside of the house. Imagine yourself standing at the center of the living room, facing a round center table proportionate to the size of the 5-seater sofa. The aisles are clear for passage, but take a step too far out on either side and you will be faced with a padded armchair, a side table with a glass vase filled with flowers and a lamp. The passageways meet at the end, where you will be faced with wooden doors with glass tiles that swing inward.
Here are the resources that Jackie included in the article:


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