Practical adaptations

If you are losing your sight or have a sight problem you may need to carry out improvements, repairs or adaptations to your home to help you continue to live there independently. This page has some ideas of changes you can make within your home to make it safer and easier to live there and to get around.

Adaptations around your home

The following areas around your home can be a good place to start if you need to make some adaptations.

On the staircase

The handrail or banister on your staircase will stand out more if you paint it in a contrasting colour or tone from the stairs and the wall.

To make the edge of each step stand out more, mark each one with white paint, or fix a contrasting white plastic or metal strip (known as "nosings") on the edge of each step.

Doors

To make doors stand out, paint the door in a contrasting colour or tone from the door frame. Painting the door frame a contrasting colour or tone from the wall will also make it easier to see. If you have sliding glass doors, it can be difficult to tell whether the doors are open or closed. To make them easier to see, stick on a coloured transfer design. This can prevent you from having any nasty accidents.

To make it easier to see door handles, use ones which contrast in colour or tone from the doors they are fixed onto. Door handles can be painted, a coloured strip can be stuck on, or the handle can be replaced. If you have cupboard doors that swing open, a contrasting strip on the inside or the outside edge of the door will help you notice it when it has been left open. You could paint this on, or use coloured sticky tape.

In the kitchen

Contrast in the kitchen can make cooking and preparing food easier and safer. It is easier to work on kitchen surfaces and mats that are plain and contrast in colour or shade from the kitchen walls or surrounding surface. For more information on cooking if you are blind or partially sighted, see our cooking page. Putting work-top appliances, like your kettle, on a contrasting non-slip mat can make them easier to see. If you paint or put tape along the edges of work surfaces and shelves in a contrasting colour or tone, it will make the edges easier to see too. A sink area of a contrasting colour or tone from the work surface can also be helpful. The taps can be of another contrasting colour or tone to the sink.

If you have wall-mounted cupboards, you should consider putting contrasting tape along the edges or changing their colour. Avoid putting up glass shelves as they are difficult to see. Having the best lighting for you is also very important in the kitchen. For more information on lighting, see our page on lighting.

In the bathroom

Bathroom areas can seem particularly daunting if you have trouble finding everything you need. Consider using safety flooring which is non-slip and non-reflective and is a contrasting colour to the walls. If fitting new wall tiles, consider a matt finish and pick tiles that are in a contrasting colour to the colour of the floor. If fitted, choose grab rails which contrast with the wall colour. They are easier to see and therefore safer to use.

Choose soap dispensers, bars of soap, toilet rolls and toilet roll holders which are a contrasting colour from your bathroom wall, washbasin and toilet. If you are buying new toilet seats or washbasins, choose ones which contrast from the surfaces they are near. For example, it is easier to see a dark blue toilet seat on a white toilet bowl, or a white washbasin against a different coloured wall.

Adapting electrical fittings

You may find it hard to switch lights on and off or plug in electrical equipment. Here are some tips that, with the aid of an electrician where necessary, can help you use electrical appliances more easily:

  • Use switches and sockets which contrast with the walls. For example, a dark red light switch would contrast well with a white wall.
  • To add even more contrast, you could put a contrasting light or dark strip of tape around the outside of the switch.
  • To help you find pull cords for lights, tie brightly coloured contrasting ribbons or material onto them.
  • To help you find the control knobs on your appliances, use brightly coloured contrasting markers (bump-ons) so that you can see and feel the controls.
  • You can fix written labels, marked in big letters with a thick black felt-tip pen, onto things to make them stand out.
  • Ask your appliances’ manufacturers if they can supply tactile adaptations for their products.

Painting and decorating

Choosing the right types of paints and wallpaper can make things easier to see at home. Gloss paints, which are shiny, can cause glare. To prevent this, use paints that have a matt finish instead. Pale walls reflect light into the room and more light can make it easier to see. Although light coloured walls can help make the room bright, white walls can cause glare and be uncomfortable.

Things stand out better on plain or subtly patterned surfaces or backgrounds, but tend to blend into the background against boldly patterned surfaces. If you are thinking about putting up new wallpaper or buying new furnishings, such as curtains or sofas, try to select plainer paper and fabrics.

Having plain walls and furniture does not mean that your home has to be plain. You can make your home more cheerful by introducing items such as patterned cushions and tie backs on your curtains.

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