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Suggested Environment Modifications

by: Southwest Low Vision 1-888-534-4321

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Safe traveling and carrying out daily tasks are a few of the major problems for people with vision loss because of difficulty adjusting to changes in light and glare, seeing stairs, curbs or objects, and seeing the details of their environment. Making use of contrasting colors can be extremely helpful in easing the difficulties of several of these factors.

When choosing contrasting colors, using colors that are significantly different from one another can be a great way of balancing out the reflection from surrounding light. The use of pastel combinations or a white and gray combination should be avoided because the colors are too similar to be of benefit to most people.

Also, a simple solution to many contrast issues: Contrast enhancing filters. These filters, are glasses designed to fit over your prescription glasses.

Apart from helping to increase contrast, these special filters are designed to reduce intraocular glare, (that is the glare that is typical with certain eye conditions such as Macular Degeneration.) It is the blue light in the light spectrum that is the culprit for glare. The yellow lens blocks up to 450nm (blue light blocker), and the orange lens blocks up to 521nm (blue light blocker). What does this mean? The yellow lenses provide excellent contrast enhancement and glare reduction, and the orange is even better! This is excellent news when you wish to prevent eye fatigue and discomfort due to intraocular glare!

Door Frames:

A doorframe set into a white wall should not be light gray in color because both colors are too similar to help a person distinguish whether he or she is walking through the door or into the wall. Instead a white or cream-colored wall with a black or dark navy blue doorframe is of greater assistance. If one does not want to repaint, masking tape or visual tape, which comes in an array of dark colors, can be used around the doorframe to provide the color contrast from the wall.

Electric Switches & Sockets:

Electrical outlet sockets and light switch covers should be changed or marked so that they are a contrasting color from the wall. The color does not matter as long as it is much darker than the wall color.

Meal Time:

To contrast the food on the dinner plate from the plate itself to ease problems during meal times, it is best to use dark colored dishes when serving light colored food and vice versa. Solid colored tablecloths that contrast the dishes, glasses, and silverware are another solution. If the floor in the dining room is a light color, a dark tablecloth also serves the purpose of distinguishing the table from the floor and the walls so that the low vision individual will not bump into the table. Another useful tip for meal times is to use colored or clear glasses with patterns depending on what the individual is drinking so that he or she can tell whether the glass is empty or full to avoid unnecessary spills.

To mark stairs, use colored masking tape on the edge of the steps to indicate where the drop-off or step-up will be. Again, the color of masking tape used should contrast the color of the floor or carpet on the stairs.
Plants or bright colored objects can also be used as a color-contrasting device such as separating light colored furniture from a light wall or carpet. If the furniture is patterned, having a plant would make it more difficult to distinguish the plant from the furniture. Because the cost of furniture covers can be quite expensive, dark solid colored bed sheets can be draped over the furniture to serve this purpose.
In Bathrooms:
In the bathroom, the color of towels and toiletries should contrast the surrounding. Additionally, painting or using wallpaper to make one wall dark and another light also allows for greater efficiency and ease in the bathroom. Bright patterns, plaids, or polka dots should be avoided because small objects placed on them can be hard to find.
Proper lighting is essential for functional vision.
The use of sunlight to provide the light needed for a visually impaired person during the day is the most inexpensive light available. In order to maximize the sunlight, it is important to seat the person next to a window, but not with his or her back towards the window. Light coming in from behind the person tends to cast a shadow on the material he/she is trying to look at and counteracts the benefits.
Task Lamps:

There are two types of light sources most helpful to visually impaired people.

One type needs to provide a concentrated light used for specific task purposes such as letter writing or reading. This type of light can be from a desk lamp or floor lamp with a flexible arm so that it can easily be adjusted to the position needed by the person rather than the person having to adjust to the position of the lamp.

A second type is one that brightens up the entire room such as a halogen lamp or lamp with a fluorescent light bulb. Halogen lamps are brighter, but they create excess heat while fluorescent lighting is energy efficient and provides evenly distributed light throughout the room. If halogen lamps are used, it is best to purchase the type that can be dimmed so that the amount of light needed throughout the day can easily be adjusted.

In Bathrooms:
In the bathroom, using incandescent light bulbs of a higher wattage can brighten up the room nicely. Additionally, the shower curtain used should be clear with a row of patterns either at the top or bottom so that plenty of light can get into the shower. At the same time, the shower curtain can also serve as a visual cue to inform the person whether the shower curtain is open or closed.
Shiny Surfaces:
Glare is caused by bright light reflecting from shiny surfaces, such as polished surfaces and mirrors. It is another situation that greatly prevents visually impaired individuals from optimizing their remaining vision. It creates a situation especially difficult for people with cataracts, whose eyes become more sensitive to glare as the disease progresses. To reduce the amount of glare throughout one’s house, it is important to remember not to polish the floor or furniture and to remove polish from items that have already been polished. If the majority of the furniture is wood and polish is necessary to prevent drying of the wood, then an appropriate color tablecloth can be used to cover the polished pieces. This way, the furniture can still be used and there will be no glare to affect the person’s functional vision.
If There is a Mirror:
In areas where there is a mirror, such as in the bathroom, wallpaper should be used on the wall opposite of the mirror and carpet or rugs should be placed on the floor to decrease glare.
Placement of a Task Lamp:
In a situation where the individual is reading, playing cards, or doing needlework, remind him or her to sit either behind or to the side of the task lamp because light coming from behind will also cause glare on his or her materials.


The particular arrangement of the area where a visually impaired person lives is another important factor in enhancing useful vision.
When Entertaining Company:
In the living room or den where company is entertained or the person watches television, the furniture should be placed close enough so that conversations can be accomplished with ease. If talking to others becomes too difficult, the visually impaired person may begin to isolate himself or herself from others.
When Watching Television:
When the living room or den is used for watching television rather than entertaining guests, there should be room available for a chair to be moved close enough to the television so that the visually impaired person can enlarge the image for his or her benefit without disturbing the other viewers.
Dining chairs with legs that extend outward should not be used because someone with difficulty seeing can easily trip on the legs and fall.

Glass sliding doors need to have a large bright colored decal placed at eye level so that the individual can see that there is a closed door in front of him/her so that he/she does not try to walk through door.

An analog clock, which is much easier for someone with a visual impairment to read, should be placed in the living room so that he or she can see what time it is without having to ask someone else.

Size and shape of the numbers are very important if a digital clock is used.

A thick black felt tip pen for writing is a great tool.

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