May 23, 2022

Home Modifications for the Visually Impaired – Lighting

- Beth Daisy, Supervisor of Occupational Therapy

a modern updated kitchen

As the first in a series of blog posts about home modifications for people with low vision, I thought I’d start off with lighting options that don’t involve smart home technology. In fact, many of the choices I’ll be writing about in this series actually embrace the idea of universal design and are great options for anyone to consider, whether you are doing a full renovation or just looking to make home a little safer in order to age in place.

We’re going to start with one of my favorites—light switches! Rocker (or paddle) style light switches are a better choice than a traditional switch for the reason that you can turn it on and off more easily with gross motor movements or if a person has limited dexterity with their fingers (think osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, post-stroke, etc). If upgrading to a rocker style switch, you might as well choose a lighted option that makes it easier to identify the switch in the dark. This is particularly important if a person has recently moved and is less familiar with the switch locations or if they are struggling to find the switches in the dark. However, this improvement benefits everyone (after all, who likes to search for a light switch?) and the look of updated switches may even add value to your home. Today, you have some great options including ones that glow such as Leviton Illuminated Rocker or ones that cast a down light below them such as Sozulamp Illuminated Light Switch. Consider using a 3-way switch for overhead lights in the bedrooms so that the light can be turned on when entering the room and turned off once the person is in bed.

Since we’re talking about lights in the bedroom, how about we upgrade that bedside lamp to something a bit more practical? Chances are you’ve had it forever and so you don’t think much about it, but your bedside lamp could probably be a lot better! For starters, newer technology with LED bulbs means that it will use less energy while also providing you options for bright light when you need it and softer light when you don’t. There are some great options such as this LED lamp with wireless charger  that let you choose daylight white (great for dialing the phone) or soft white color (calming and better for ambience). As an added bonus, it is combined with a wireless charger so that you can keep your phone charging by your bedside without worrying about inserting the charger into the phone. Honestly, I think you’ll be sleeping a lot better with this by your bedside!

Maybe you’re concerned about someone safely navigating to the bathroom in low light conditions and perhaps it isn’t likely that they will remember to turn on the lights. New LED lights often have a motion sensor component that will trigger the lights to come on if they sense movement within a predetermined range. Like dusk to dawn lights you may have outside your home, these will only be activated when it is dark in the room. Once on, they say on for several minutes before shutting off. There are LED lights that you can install yourself in a matter of minutes. They typically involve small lights on an adhesive strip that can be mounted either along a walking route to the bathroom or even under a bed to cast light down by the person’s feet so they can find their slippers or shoes. You just need to plug them into a wall outlet (I don’t recommend the battery operated or rechargeable versions for this purpose) and make sure the motion sensor is placed where the lights will be triggered if the person gets out of bed. If you are doing a full remodel, consider asking your lighting contractor to embed motion activated “pathway” lighting in the hallways of your home and to the bathroom. It will look elegant and may reduce the risk of falls at night.

There you have it. Three home lighting modifications that collectively cost less than $100 for materials and are relatively easy to install. Next month we’ll dive into some #lowvision and #universaldesign options for bathrooms!

Future In Sight staff can help guide you to available resources and services that help individuals with vision loss increase independence, safety, and quality of life. To get started today, please contact one of our Social Workers at [email protected] or by phone toll-free at 1-800-464-3075. You can also visit Contact Us – Future In Sight!

About the author: Beth Daisy is a licensed and registered occupational therapist and a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) through the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).