Top 5 tips for an inclusive home environment for the vision-impaired
At Feros Care we’re committed to assisting people to live their best bold lives, and in recognition of World Sight Day, we’ve partnered with disability advocate and Inclusion Project Officer, Michael Taggart, to share the top 5 tips on
what you can put in place around the house for yourself or a vision-impaired loved one to ensure an inclusive, enjoyable, and relaxing home environment for everyone.
Michael, who’s been in his role with the City of Salisbury in South Australia for 23 years, is completely blind, but has thrived in his career, at home, and with his wife while raising two children.
For those who are completely blind, and those living with varying levels of vision impairment, or only recently experiencing vision loss, impairment or blindness, Michael said thriving around the home with independence and happiness was achievable
for them, their families or fellow occupants.
“There’s an assumption that blindness is complete, and for 10% it is, but for the other 90%, a lot of people become vision impaired later in life, and they think blindness is a story ender, not a story starter,” Michael said.
“But there’s so many things you can do and achieve, and by having a few tricks around the house and following a routine, you can remove hazards, anxieties and frustrations.”
By implementing these few simple and routine-based practices and tips like he and his family does, Michael said navigating home life can be inclusive, enjoyable, and relaxing.
1. CLEAR ACCESS
Michael tells us that clear access is a given and makes the house more accessible, and navigating designated areas such as main pathways in and out of the house and into rooms, with at least one metre of space free of clutter, toys, rubbish and so
on is vital. If you live with other people, there must be a negotiated agreement to follow the routine, but if you have children, don’t underestimate their ability to learn. Also keep a fairly clear space from your front door to your lounge
area and dining area, which can really expand your open areas.
For your ornaments, vases, pictures and those sorts of delicate items, limit them in open areas and try keeping them off to the side, or in other designated areas of the house. Michael said his son was two when he was already learning and aware of
the need for keeping access areas clear and was then able to teach his next child. He said by by setting designated through ways, you know you have a clear path to where you’re going while removing anxieties or potential for injury or accidents
in the process.
2. EVERYTHING HAS A PLACE
Michael advises, if you go into a building, you want to know where things like a lift, lift button or front counter are, and that’s the same at home. Having a place where certain things are kept is crucial, and if you live alone, you can get
a system set up, but if you live with others, they all have to be in on it.
For instance, he does some of his own chores like doing the washing and hanging it out, doing the dishes, boiling the pot and making his own breakfast. To achieve this, there’s certain physical things he said he needs to find without a fuss.
So, make sure you have an easily accessible spot where the vacuum is kept, where pegs are kept, and always keep your breakfast items in the exact same spot or shelf, and same with the dishes, glasses and bowls. Like other tips, Michael said following
this routine is also a great way of increasing independence.
3. LOOKING YOUR BEST
While Michael jokes it’s becoming increasingly harder to find any hair, he has a really good hairdresser, which is really important as you need to have that trust, particularly with your daily routine at home. If you live with people,
Michael advised having them assist in setting up a system which works best for you is the best option, and if you live alone, have someone come and assist you to ensure proper set up and placing to fit best.
“Luckily, my wife and daughter are really good at helping me buy clothes that fit well and go together, but equally as important, I need to know how to find what and where. To achieve this, you also need to have a good system for storing or
hanging your clothes. This ensures clothes are not only in the right places so you know where to go to grab what without mixing things up by pulling them out, but you’ll also have confidence they’ll be matched for style and colour,
while eliminating any clashes. This system can transfer to the bathroom, where you can do simple things like put a hair tie around your bottle of conditioner to differentiate it from the shampoo,” he said.
4. TECHNOLOGY AND ADVICE
While Michael utilises technology like JAWS screen reader which allows blind and visually impaired users to read computer screens through text-to-speech output or a Braille display, he hasn’t adapted too much at home. However, he said Apple
iPhone’s easy to download applications like the ABC listening application are great and can be easily run through a stereo. Siri technology is also great and comes in very handy, but there’s been loads of new technology coming out
in the last decade or so.
Smart technology is great, with plenty of options available, and you can access adaptive technology training to learn how to use technology like screenreaders for your laptop and home life. Michael’s advice when embracing technology would be
to go out and seek specialist advice to ensure you are getting a tailored set up that will suit you, your home and your needs.
5. BEYOND THE HOUSE
Independence extends beyond the house, and while outdoor chores like taking the bins out can be complex, particularly through the fact that there’s no way to identify waste, recycling and green wheelie bins, Michael said you can get around that.
If you live in a block of units like Michael, knowing the place your bins go is crucial to know; but identifying each individually can be achieved by feel. He suggested applying varying Velcro straps to handles so you can identify by feel…
this will also allow for putting rubbish or recycling into the right bins through the week.
Assistive Technology (AT) options may be available for Feros Care and National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants as part of their plans, to provide equipment or systems which can assist with moving around the home while communicating with
others, processing information, and completing other daily tasks. Supports may be included in your NDIS plan where it is a reasonable and necessary support that will meet your needs and help you pursue and reach your goals. For more information, visit
us here, or call 1300 986 970.