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Low-Vision Accommodations in Your Home

Topic Overview

There are many things you can do to make living with low vision easier and safer. Low-vision rehabilitation specialists can give you detailed information and training on doing your household tasks and other activities that can be more challenging when you have reduced vision.

Use lighting

  • Position lighting so that it is aimed at what you want to see, and away from your eyes.
  • Add table and floor lamps in areas where extra lighting is frequently needed.
  • Use window coverings that allow you to adjust the level of natural lighting.
  • Make sure potentially hazardous areas such as entries and stairways are well lit.

Use contrast

Contrast makes use of your eyes' ability to distinguish objects and their surroundings based on differences in brightness or color, rather than shape or location. If you have low vision, you may need more light to be able to distinguish objects with similar brightness or color (low contrast).

  • Place light objects against dark backgrounds, or dark objects against a light background. For example, if you have white or light-colored walls, use dark switch plates to mark the location of light switches. You can also use lighted switches that glow softly and so are easier to identify.
  • You can also use paint in a contrasting color to mark electrical outlets, oven dials, thermostats, and other items so that they are easier to find and use.
  • Paint door frames in a contrasting color. If the door is light, paint the frame with a dark color. Use dark doorknobs on light-colored doors.
  • In your bathroom, use contrasting color for items such as cups, soap dishes, and even the soap.

Label and mark

  • Use high contrast, such as bold black lettering on a white background, when making labels, signs, and other markings. Post signs at eye level.
  • Label any medicines that you take so that they are easily and clearly identified. Use colored, high-contrast labels to "color code" medicines, spices, foods, and other items.
  • Mark the positions of the temperature settings you use most frequently on your stove and oven controls, as well as the "on" and "off" positions. Some appliances are available with extra-large, high-contrast markings and indicators.
  • In the kitchen and bathroom, mark the settings for the faucets that provide the right water temperature. To prevent overfilling a sink or bathtub, mark the water level you want with a strip of waterproof tape or waterproof marker.
  • Mark the areas around stairways and ramps with paint or tape, preferably with a high-contrast color such as dark tape on light carpeting.

Avoid potential hazards

  • Replace or remove any worn carpeting or floor coverings. If you use throw rugs or area rugs, tape them down or remove them.
  • Avoid smooth floor coverings, and don't wax kitchen and bathroom floors. Use nonskid, nonglare cleaners on smooth floors.
  • Remove electrical cords from areas where you need to walk. If this isn't possible, tape them down so you won't trip over them.
  • Arrange your furniture so it doesn't stick out into areas where you need to walk. Keep chairs pushed in under tables and desks when not in use. Keep desk, cabinet, and bureau drawers closed.
  • Keep doors either fully opened or fully closed, but not halfway. If you have doors that stick out into a room or hallway, keep them closed.
  • Make sure the handrails on stairways and ramps extend beyond the top and bottom steps, because people often stumble when they miss a step at the top or bottom of an incline. Consider installing handrails in other potentially hazardous areas.

To find out what vision aids might be most helpful to you, see the form Using Low-Vision Aids at Home (What is a PDF document?).

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
Last Revised November 12, 2012

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