February 6, 2017

Improving Kitchen Accessibility for People with Vision Impairments

- Future In Sight

a modern updated kitchen

The kitchen is one of the most challenging and dangerous areas of the home for people with all types of disabilities, including those with vision impairment. Fortunately, there are strategies and improvements you can make in the kitchen to improve accessibility for yourself or a loved one with impaired vision. Here’s a look at a few easy ways to make your kitchen more accessible.

Developing Organizational Systems

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” While commonly used in the context of general home organization, a strategic organization system is an incredibly useful strategy for people with vision impairment. After all, if you know precisely where something is kept, vision impairment is less of a hindrance when it comes to locating the supplies or ingredients you need in the kitchen.

Store kitchen accessories and ingredients in designated places to make them easier to find. For example, keep canned goods on a specific pantry shelf with some organizational method that makes them easier to identify, such as alphabetical order. Tactile labels and other types of tactile cues can aid in identification for items that have indistinguishable packaging like canned and boxed goods.

Making Appliances Accessible

If you’re in the market for new appliances, there are some features to look for that can improve usability for people with vision impairment. For instance, look for appliances that have more knobs, embossed control panels or audible features such as beeps and tones, which can help those with vision impairment determine whether they have chosen the right options.

Appliances with timers and automatic shut-off functions are also helpful for people with vision impairment. Automatic shutoff functions improve safety by turning off the appliance if the user forgets to do so after a certain amount of idle time, reducing the risk of fires.

Some kitchen appliances have raised shapes on the control buttons, making them more disability-friendly compared to those with smooth glass or fiber touch panels.

Store Frequently Used Items in Easy-to-Reach Places

Storing the items most frequently used in the easiest-to-reach places is another useful strategy for people with low vision. It’s easier to read the small print on labels of things like spices and baking supplies when they’re stored at eye level versus areas such as over the fridge.

Additionally, store frequently used pots and pans in easy-to-access cupboards. Lazy-Susan’s or pull-out shelving options can be useful storage options for people with visual impairment for storing items like spices, as well. Thanks to rotating shelves, items typically stored in the back where lighting is dim and other objects are blocking the view are easier to see when rotated to the front.

Ensure Adequate Lighting

Dim lighting is a concern for people with vision impairment throughout the home, but it’s especially important to ensure adequate lighting in the kitchen. Poor lighting makes it difficult to see food labels, read cooking instructions, and navigate the kitchen.

Consider installing lamps and light fixtures designed for task lighting to make it easier for a family member with low vision to read the small print on labels, recipe cards and books. Task lighting lamps should be adjustable so that the light can be directed precisely where it’s needed.

When choosing lighting options for the kitchen as a whole, consider your family member’s unique needs. If glare is an issue due to reflective surfaces, full-spectrum lighting can make the problem worse. This can be combated with the use of blue-blocker glasses, switching out reflective surfaces when feasible, or choosing alternate light sources.

There are many considerations when it comes to improving the accessibility of your kitchen for a loved one who is visually impaired. From the simple to the complex, there are a range of strategies and solutions that can make your kitchen more user-friendly for all family members. Consider your loved one’s needs and implement solutions and modifications that contribute to a more functional space.

Need an assessment of yours or a loved one’s kitchen space? We’d be happy to schedule a personal home visit. Please reach out to our services department at [email protected] or by calling 1-800-464-3075.

Our guest blogger is Ms. Jackie Waters. She wishes to feed her family as much fresh and home-grown food as possible. Jackie runs hyper-tidy.com, providing advice on being…Hyper Tidy!