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Tips to make life easier for someone with vision loss

More than 23 million American adults reported experiencing vision loss in the 2015 National Health Interview Survey, according to the American Foundation for the Blind. As Americans continue to live longer, we can expect this number to grow.

If you have an aging loved one, you may be concerned about his or her ability to safely do daily activities. There are a number of relatively simple things that you can do to maximize a person's independence and comfort within his or her home.

For someone with vision loss, there are three main issues to keep in mind: adequate lighting, good contrast and labeling.

  1. Lighting
    Most people with low vision prefer natural light, the kind that comes through windows or from the sun. What many don't realize is that simply sitting near a window does not always provide enough lighting. Visually impaired individuals need light directed right at the object or area they need to see, whether it's a book, newspaper, needlework or work space.

    For these activities, additional light from a lamp is helpful. It is best to have a lamp with a flexible arm so the angle of the light can be adjusted. Also, look for light bulbs called daylight or full spectrum bulbs. These mimic the natural light most usable by our eyes.

    In addition, don't forget other areas of the house where a little extra light can make a big difference. When I installed a small, push-button light in my grandmother's closet, she was able to find the specific outfits she wanted to put on much more easily.

  2. Contrast
    High contrast between an object and the background, against which it is seen, is often helpful to individuals who are visually impaired. For example, black letters on a white background are easier to see than blue letters on a red background (as often seen on food containers). Look for ways to increase the contrast in the home.

    One place I have found this to be very true is with dinnerware. It is much easier for a visually impaired individual to pour black coffee into a white mug than into a dark-colored mug. When serving food, be aware of contrast. Light-colored cereal will be difficult to see in a beige bowl; think about switching to a darker bowl.

    Clocks, wristwatches, timers and telephones with high contrast between the background and the numbers are much easier for visually impaired individuals to read than devices without contrast. Also note that computers and handheld devices can be adjusted to maximize contrast and increase font size.

  3. Labeling
    Marking appliances and other household items so they are easily recognizable can be very helpful. Raised dot stickers can be placed on the microwave or washing machine to help family members quickly locate certain settings. Placing a rubber band around his or her toothbrush so the individual can be certain of using the correct one will cut down on frustration.

When a family member experiences vision loss, it's normal to want to help; it's also normal not to know exactly where to start with this help. Whenever possible, focus on maximizing the vision the person DOES have. Being aware of lighting, contrast and labelling can help your loved one function more independently around the house.


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