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Summary: Find out more about effective use of lighting and good contrasting colour in your own home as well as ways to label and identify items at home.
- Using contrasting colours
- Identification and labelling
- Finding your way around
- Doors inside your home
- Entrance to your home
- Handrail and stairs
- Your kitchen
- Electrical controls
- Bathroom hints
- Security measures
- In your garden
Evenly distributed lighting in your home at a level that works best for you can be helpful.
Light from windows
Although daylight is a great source of lighting, it may need to be controlled if it causes glare. You can get adjustable window blinds that you can lower to the level that you require without reducing the quality of daylight entering the room. Tinted glass can control the amount of light coming through south-facing windows. Lightweight and pale window frames can help to maximise light entering a room.
If you only use ceiling light, you could end up working in your own shadow. Ceiling lights fitted with a dimmer switch can be useful so that the quality and quantity of light can be adjusted to suit you. Daylight colour bulbs, available from NCBI resource centres, offer a more natural light.
Consider using task lighting to supplement daylight or ceiling lighting. Task lighting includes gooseneck, adjustable arm lamps or stick-up and clip-on lighting. Task lighting can help to put the light exactly where it is needed so that you can see enough to carry out a task safely and independently. Additional task lighting over, for example, the cooker, the worktop and sink or the kettle can help. Provide extra task lighting sockets throughout the house. The stairs, stairwell and outdoor areas and other darker areas should be well lit. In dimly lit areas, such as your wardrobe, you may find it helpful to use a pocket flashlight.
Remember that only using task lighting will offer you uneven lighting. Whatever the lighting arrangement, as task lighting is increased, so should the surrounding room lighting. Choose lampshades carefully to ensure lighting is evenly distributed throughout a room without glare.
Lighting on stairs
Lighting must be even and sufficient to highlight the steps and the stairway and any obstruction that may be on the stairs. Lighting should highlight the stair treads as opposed to the risers to emphasise each step.
Lighting a corridor
Central strip lighting gives good, even corridor lighting. Ceiling-mounted lighting fitted longitudinally (longways) down the centre line of the corridor can offer even lighting.
Turning lighting on and off
For safety at night, movement-sensing lights can be used. The position of the on/off switch or a light detector may assist you with knowing when the lights are on or off.
Find out more about replacing your ordinary light bulbs with energy-efficient versions and read the ESB’s Guide to Energy Efficient Lighting.
Use contrasting colours
Use contrasting colours whenever possible both indoors and out of doors. It may make it easier for you to distinguish things and to use your vision more effectively. All that is required is a little thought before purchasing items such as cutlery, crockery, towels, linen, etc.
- Chicken or potatoes may be easier to locate on a dark-coloured plate than on a white one.
- Plugs and sockets can be bought in different colours that can contrast with the wall colour, making them easier to locate.
- Dark-coloured nightwear will contrast strongly with white or pale bed linen or vice versa.
- A dark or brightly coloured toilet seat cover, bath towels, mats, etc. may make a white bathroom easier to ‘navigate’.
Some quick solutions:
Masking tape is available in many colours. Among its many uses are the following:
- Stick it to plugs, sockets or light switches to help them contrast with the wall.
- Run it along the edge of worktops or tables to make the edge more visible.
- Cut it in thin strips to mark kitchen appliance controls.
- Use it to help identify keys.
- Stick it to glass to make it more visible.
- Coloured stickers may be used in a similar way.
- Corner covers for the edges of presses or tables may offer contrast and help prevent bumps.
- Instead of buying new tableware, a coloured place mat may offer enough contrast between plate, cutlery and table.
Your individual preference is very important. Remember what is good for one person may not necessarily be the best for you.
Identification and labelling
- If you are a Braille reader, you can produce Braille labels using your Perkins Brailler or dymo gun, available from NCBI resource centres.
- Write words on a label in large print.
- Write words on a label with thermoform.
- Velcro strips cut into the shape of the letter can be stuck to CDs, tapes, etc to help distinguish them, e.g. A = Abba, B = Blues, C = Country.
- Magnetic letters which stick to the tops of tins may be useful, e.g. P = peas, B = beans.
- Different types or different numbers of rubber bands around tins or jars may help distinguish them or put them in order of use by dates.
- Blu-tac stuck to bottles, cartons or cans may help distinguish them.
- Paper clips on tickets or credit cards may help to identify them.
- To identify a toothbrush or hairbrush place a rubber band or elastoplast around the handle.
- Remove the paper from cat or dog food to distinguish these cans from other food.
- You can record a short message on Voila labels. A Voila talking label reader available from NCBI resource centres can then read it back to you.
- Talking tins, available from NCBI resource centres, are a magnetic cap that sits on top of any steel tin. A short message is recorded on the cap and this can be played back later, identifying the tin.
- Tulip or 3D paint can be ‘painted’ on a can to offer tactile and/or visual clues. Tulip paint and 3D paint are available from art & hobby shops. They come in many different colours and textures and take 1 to 2 hours to dry. Tulip paint is less likely to harden in the tube between uses.
Tactile and visual markings
Anything that is tactile, visual or both may be used to help you to identify position of controls, switches, buttons, ingredients, tapes, CDs, etc. Here are some marking ideas:
- Brightly coloured stickers (different shapes and sizes)
- Coloured paint
- Nail varnish
- Masking tape
- Tulip paint
- 3D paint
- Tulip paint
- 3D paint
- Braille labels
- Magnetic alphabet letters, e.g. P means peas, B means beans. When thinking about marking objects, choose a colour that you can see best and whether visual or tactile markings or both are required. When marking appliance controls, generally less ‘marks’ works best as too many may be confusing – although some people may prefer many marks.
Finding your way around
If you have very little sight, different textures on wall surfaces and floor finishes can assist you with finding your way around. Different types of wallpaper can denote different rooms. Good use of floor texture inside and outside your home can be useful with orientation; for example, you could have wood in the hall, carpeted lounge and lino in the kitchen. For larger rooms, a length of lino or wooden flooring around the edge of a carpeted room can guide a person around the furniture to the door of another room. When using different floor coverings ensure that they finish flush so that you won’t trip over them. Avoid mats as they can be a tripping hazard.
Effectively using sounds
The sounds given from floor coverings or the presence or absence of sound-absorbing furnishings can change sounds indoors. A sound clue, such as a ticking clock, can also aid orientation. A wind chime can be used to indicate whether a door is being opened or whether a window is open.
- If possible, get furniture with rounded edges.
- Coffee tables below knee height can become a tripping hazard.
- Avoid unguarded projections protruding from the wall that are below head height (2200mm); for example, outward-opening cupboards or windows that open inwards can be a problem as you could bump your head.
- It is easier to see soft furnishings if they contrast with both the walls and floors.
Doors inside your home
- Doors are best either fully open or completely closed as door edges can be a danger. If possible, doors inside your home should open into the dead space of the room against the wall. Some doors can be fitted with a slow self-closing facility or sliding doors may be appropriate in some areas.
Avoid strong springs on swing doors
- Windows and doors that go from ground to ceiling are particularly dangerous. To ensure that someone does not walk into the glass believing it to be an opening, clear glass doors or patio doors should be marked at eye level (between 1400mm and 1600mm from finished floor level) by a solid bold band of yellow or red masking tape or with a coloured transfer design (minimum of 150mm square) to make it more visible. The band of colour should be repeated at a lower level for children. Frosted or etched markings are not effective.
To make doors more easily identifiable, consider painting them a contrasting colour to the walls. The doorframe can also be painted a contrasting colour to the door itself and the surrounding wall. Door handles and locks may also be easier to see if they contrast with the door.
Entrance to your home
- External lighting, particularly at the front and back door and garden entrance, is important for visibility and security.
- To make it easier to see your front door, paint it in a contrasting colour to the surrounding exterior walls.
- A contrasting coloured tactile number can be fixed to the front door at eye level.
- It is often easier to locate the keyhole if it is incorporated into a panel on the door handle or if the keyhole is a contrasting colour to the door.
Handrail and stairs
- A handrail will stand out more if it is a contrasting colour to the wall and stairs. Existing handrails can be taped or painted a bright colour to make them more visible.
- Provide a handrail on both sides of your stairs. The handrails should follow the exact contour of the staircase including a half landing so there will be no need to lift your hand from the rail to go to the next floor.
- Handrails that have an extension of at least 300mm after the last step are better so that you will know that the bottom or top of the stairs has been reached.
- If you have difficulty with seeing the stairs, mark the edge of each step, especially the first and last steps of your stairs, with contrasting colour paint such as yellow, or securely fix a contrasting colour plastic or metal strip on the edge of each step.
- To prevent you banging your head off the underside of the stairs, consider closing it with furniture, plants or screens.
- An open plan kitchen, clear of tables and chairs, can make it easier to get around. The proximity of the cooker to the sink should be as small as possible to reduce the transfer of hot liquid and pans back and forth.
- To make worktop edges easier to see, paint or stick a contrasting colour tape or paint around the edges. It is easier to work on surfaces that are a plain matt mid-tone colour that contrasts with the kitchen walls and utensils. Avoid stainless steel because it causes glare.
- Cupboard doors left partially open are unsafe and can cause accidents. Consider painting them a bright colour to make them more visible and use a contrasting colour masking tape for the handles. If purchasing cupboards, choose one that contrasts with the surrounding walls and with rounded corners and sliding doors or open shelving. To help identify that the cupboard door is open, place a contrasting coloured tape on the insides, backs or the outside edge of the doors.
- Adequate natural and artificial lighting is very important in the kitchen. Shielded down lighting under overhead cupboards can make the worktop easier to see. Ensure that lighting is fitted to the front of the cupboards underside so that the lighting will shine on the worktop rather than the back wall.
- It is helpful if plates and cups are a different colour to the kitchen worktop or table. A glass of water may not be easily seen. Avoid accidents by placing water in a brightly coloured cup.
- Electric sockets placed above the worktop can be easier to reach.
- Extra sockets can avoid trailing cables.
- Consider using sockets and switch panels that contrast in colour with the wall or paint them with contrasting border around the outside of the socket or switch panel. In the kitchen and bathroom, dark tiling around a light socket or switch can be useful.
- Masking tape or brightly coloured paint can be used on sockets or light switches. Fluorescent stickers can be fixed onto light switches at night.
- To help distinguish pull cords, attach a larger contrasting colour end. Keep the chord close to the wall, as it is difficult to search for things in mid-air.
Consider making effective use of colour and non-slip matt surfaces in the bathroom. If possible, avoid porcelain fittings, white shiny tiles, and glossy paint on walls and ceilings as they can cause glare. Try to use a non-slip floor covering such as non-slip tiles, cork tiles or carpet as well as matt-finished wall tiles, which will contrast effectively with your bathroom fittings.
Fixtures and fittings could contrast in colour with the wall and floor finishes to aid with location, for example dark tiles behind a white wash hand basin.
- A dark or brightly coloured toilet seat cover or bath towels make a white bathroom easier to navigate.
- A contrasting bath towel hung on the side of the bath can help a person to locate the bath.
- Grab rails in the bathroom, shower and toilet may be useful and can be taped or painted in a contrasting colour to make them more visible.
- Consider using liquid soap or a brightly coloured soap and sponges.
- Choose a toilet seat that is a different colour from the toilet bowl and contrasting colour toilet paper.
- A pedestal mat, with a non-slip backing, around the toilet can be a useful tactile indicator.
It can also help if items within the toilet area are grouped together; for example, soap dispenser, towel and washbowl can be placed logically and near to one another. Hot and cold taps can be easily identified by using colour and tactile markings and, if possible, arranged consistently throughout your home. As an alternative, thermostat-controlled mixer taps can be installed to prevent burns.
Mirrors can confuse and lead to disorientation. If mirrors are large, it can be helpful if they have a clearly marked border. Mirrors positioned above the hand basin can make them difficult to get close to. Consider putting up another mirror, which can be accessed easily. A magnifying mirror or a mirror with expanding arms is useful. Good, even overhead lighting with additional task lighting is often helpful in the bathroom. Two vertical fluorescent fittings with good diffusers mounted on the wall on either side of the mirror can be useful provided they are well out of the person’s direct line of vision.
- To prevent the door edge being a danger, the shower room door can be sliding or open right back to the wall.
- The shower unit itself can have a tray or be of the walk-in type, depending on your level of mobility. Sometimes, you might find a square tray easier for orientation.
- Shower tray edges can also be colour contrasted.
- A non-slip shower mat can help.
- Consider an adjustable showerhead so that its height can be adjusted and be of hand-free design.
- An electric shower can be better as the temperature of the water may be easier to control. Place a visual or tactile mark to indicate the right temperature.
- For people with mobility difficulties, a good contrasting colour handrail can be fitted on all sides of the shower, where there is a wall, and a strong contrasting colour flip-up seat can be installed on the wall of the shower unit.
- Bedside lamps can aid with orientation.
- Ensure that there are sufficient power points in the bedroom for task lighting, for example a reading light and light positioned by a mirror to provide good illumination.
- Sliding wardrobe doors are preferable.
- Avoid patterned carpets or bedspreads so that dropped items are easier to find.
- Consider installing an intercom on your front door. Even if you have no sight, it is advisable to turn on lights for security reasons and to let neighbours and visitors know that you are home.
- A telephone upstairs and downstairs may also be helpful in an emergency. Consider placing the telephone at eye level so that you can see the keypad more clearly. Large-button telephones are available from NCBI resource centres.
- Find our more about choosing an accessible house alarm.
In your garden
- It is helpful if the garden area has a clearly defined border to separate it from the path.
- Different paths can have different textures and colours, for example bricks or tarmac.
- Exterior lights can be placed off the paths; the light sensitive type will come on automatically at night. Lights should be shielded to direct the light where it is needed.
- A water feature with running water, rustling leaves and wind chimes can give you an orientation cue, while bubble and splash fountains in a flowerbed can act as an orientation cue without danger.
- Plants can be selected for:
a. Variety of form, e.g. pampas grass and silver birch rustle the breeze and have a distinctive shape;
b. Variety of colour, e.g. cooper beech and grey-leafed shrubs;
c. Variety of smell, e.g. all the herb group of plants – sage, lavender, etc;
d. Variety of flowers in colour and form.
- If you have steps in the garden, install a secure handrail on either side of the flight of steps. The steps should be of a non-slip surface and the edges of the top and bottom steps should be clearly marked with yellow paint.
- Tree branches should not overhang on the footpaths.
These are only guidelines. Your local community resource worker can offer you more advice and practical training about ways to carry out everyday tasks. Find out more about our local community resource work service or LoCall 1850 33 43 53 to arrange a meeting.