Home modifications for vision loss

If the person you care for has a low vision diagnosis, three types of modifications to the home can make life easier: Lighting, glare control, and the use of color contrast. Fortunately, these strategies are relatively inexpensive.

Lighting. Sunlight is the best. It’s full-spectrum light. But it fluctuates depending on the time of day and the weather. Fluorescent bulbs are advised for general room lighting, although they cannot be dimmed. Incandescent lights can be dimmed, but they tend to produce visual “hot spots” or glare. Their best application is in a gooseneck lamp for close-up tasks. Lights recessed into the ceiling are optimal for spotlighting dark areas without creating glare (for example, a closet, hallway, stairs). Track lighting is lower cost, but it sometimes creates glare.

Glare control. Glare arises when reflected light creates too bright a hot spot relative to the rest of the room making it difficult for the eyes to adjust. Strive to reduce shiny surfaces. Also, to control surrounding light.

  • Choose mini blinds or vertical blinds for maximum control of glare from the sun.
  • Install dimmer switches to even out lighting brightness.
  • Avoid using glossy paints or polishing furniture or floors to a shiny finish.
  • Have tablecloths or other throw-ons available to cover bright surfaces as needed.

Color contrast. Light colors used in contrast to dark or bright colors instantly make it easier for your loved one to locate important items or get oriented in a room. For instance:

  • When walls are white, paint doors, doorjambs, and baseboards with bright colors to highlight the boundaries of a room. Use a dark switch plate around light switches and outlets.
  • Choose solid floor coverings (carpet, wood, tile) instead of those with patterns.
  • Provide a dark desktop for tasks involving paper or a white plate for dining on a dark table top (or cloth).
  • Place a dark armchair against a white wall and/or a light-colored floor or rug.
  • Place brightly colored tape on the edges of cupboards and drawers to help your relative know when these are open, safeguarding against bumps, cuts, and falls.
  • Red, orange and yellow—solid, bright colors—are more visible than pastels and/or dark colors.