Suggestions to organize your home to accommodate the visually impaired

My name is Jackie Waters. I am a mother of four beautiful and energetic boys. I live with my family on our three-acre hobby farm in Oregon. My goal is to feed our family as much fresh and home-grown food as possible, focusing on sustainability and simplicity.

Recently, my sister-in-law (who has a visual impairment) came to live with us. Before she moved in, we carefully assessed our home and its setup to determine how to make it more accessible for her. She was concerned about being thought of as a burden, but I assured her that this was not the case. The burden would be living in a home that is difficult to navigate through! So she agreed that I was onto something–and we went to work.
Once she was on board, I picked her brain for the best way to organize and declutter the house to make her life easier. Of course, this totally appealed to the organizing fanatic in me!
For people with a visual impairment, consistency and strict organization are crucial. People with low vision or blindness often rely on their memory to navigate through their home, find personal care items, kitchen utensils, and anything else they may need. A home that is cluttered and disorganized makes daily life unnecessarily difficult. Here are a few home organization tips that will help you foster a more functional lifestyle for a loved one with a visual impairment.

Use Storage Baskets and labels
Store loose items in easily accessible storage baskets, crates, or totes and label containers to indicate their contents, making it easier for a person with a visual impairment to locate everyday objects. For instance, you might use Braille labels to mark storage containers that hold keys, wallets, and purses, DVDs, and personal care items such as face wash or shower gel. If a loved one has low vision, but is not completely blind, standard labels with large fonts may be adequate for enabling them to locate the items they need.
This is especially true in the kitchen, as it is one of the most frequently used spaces in the home. Baskets or crates are a great way to organize a variety of tools, utensils, and appliances.

Keep Everything in a Designated Location
Placing items like keys and important paperwork in inconsistent locations makes it difficult for everyone to find items needed throughout the day. This can be especially difficult for those with low vision or blindness. Imagine trying to find your wallet without being able to visually look around the kitchen–especially when you are in a hurry to be somewhere.
Choose a convenient location for such items. For example, set up a basket placed near the door. Keeping the things you need on a daily basis in a convenient and consistent location will save you and your loved ones a great deal of time and frustration.

Organize Closets Strategically
Getting dressed can be a challenge for people with low vision, blindness, or color blindness if their bedrooms are not well organized. With a bit of savvy closet organization, you can help your loved one overcome these difficulties.
Some people simply rely on others to help them coordinate matching outfits. Because this may not always be possible, color-coded closet organization is a helpful strategy.
You may also consider organizing the closet by pre-coordinated outfits. Do this by grouping pants, shirts, socks and the like together in matched groups. You can categorize clothing sets further by occasion such as work outfits, dinner outfits, and so forth. This makes it easier to get dressed, whether in the morning before work or on your way out for an evening of fun.

Prevent Slips and Falls
People who are visually impaired may be at an increased risk of slipping and falling, because they are unable to see to navigate through dimly lit areas or avoid tripping hazards that aren’t visible in their walking path. You can greatly reduce the risk of accidents by maintaining a clean, clutter-free home, removing hazards such as throw rugs and electrical cords from areas most frequently used as a pass-thru for walking.
Flooring itself can pose a risk of trips and falls, particularly if your home has slick, shiny surfaces like glossy hardwood floors, tile, or laminate flooring. Strategically place non-skid rugs (secured to the floor or lined with non-slip grips) to prevent sliding on smooth surfaces and, if necessary, replace slippery flooring with a matte or less-slick flooring for better traction. This can do wonders to improve safety.

A few simple organizational strategies can dramatically improve functional living for a loved one with a visual impairment. From the kitchen to the closet, to the general living area, some thoughtful actions can go a long way in helping your loved one maintain greater independence.
My sister-in-law has lived with us for about five months now and things seem to be running smoothly. Not only is my home super organized (hooray!) but my sister-in-law appears to be comfortable and happy! She knows where everything is—and so do we! I would say it’s a win-win for everyone.

*****
Jackie Waters is a contributing author to Life After Blindness. You can find out more about her by visiting her website Hyper Tidy.

Life After Blindness Spotlight Interview with Trey McCrory

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This week on the Life After Blindness Spotlight, Tim speaks with Trey McCrory. He is the Graduate Manager for the Northwestern State University men’s basketball team. Trey has been nominated for the 2017 NCAA Most Courageous Award.
Trey talks about growing up blind in a small town in Louisiana and then how he came to be the graduate manager for his favorite college basketball team. He also discusses the importance of family, what he’s learned from his experiences as well as what he wants to do in the future.
Please listen as we explore Trey’s life after blindness.

Apple’s iPhone anniversary from the point of view of the blind and visually impaired

10 ways the iPhone has impacted the blind

On January 9th, Apple celebrated the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. Yes, it’s been 10 years since Steve Jobs announced to the world what would become a revolution. A revolution that was limited to the sighted at launch. But with the release of the iPhone 3GS in 2009, the blind and visually impaired community rejoiced in amazement at the implementation of the new screen reader called Voiceover. Prior to the release of Voice over on the 3GS, the blind were relegated to using very specific models of phones for accessibility. These phones didn’t offer that accessibility right out of the box however. By the time you purchased the phone, a screen reader and then perhaps software to scan and read print documents, a blind person may spend a minimum of $2000. At that cost, you still didn’t get a fraction of the accessibility and functionality of the iPhone.

Enter Steve Jobs and Apple…

The 10th anniversary of the iPhone announcement has inspired me to reflect on its history and how it has affected the blind. The iPhone has brought accessibility to social interaction, navigation, text and image recognition, gaming and so many other parts of our digital lives. The implementation of so many of these services and the accessibility of so many apps has truly been a game-changer.

Through personal experience, research and the help of some friends – I’ve put together the following list. A top 10 list, broken down by category, that highlights how the iPhone has impacted the lives of the blind and visually impaired.

If there is anything you would like to add or talk about in more detail, please leave a comment below. You can also send me an email.

10. Portability

10 years ago, Steve Jobs stressed the portability of the iPhone when he explained how it was so many devices in one. To be able to carry in your pocket an iPod, phone and internet device was indeed a revolution!
This wasn’t just a big deal for the mainstream however. Unlocking the iPhone’s potential to the blind was huge. Previously you could spend thousands of dollars between multiple devices just to achieve some of what the iPhone could do.

9. Going mainstream

The advent of the iPhone and it’s portability achieved something else for the blind. It included us within the mainstream of society. Not only did you not have to spend thousands on multiple devices but you could purchase a mainstream device just like anyone else and have it work right out of the box.
This also means the blind have access to the safety and security as others through the use of ApplePay. That level of inclusiveness is a wonderful and powerful feeling!

8. Gaming

Games have been developed for the blind long before the iPhone came around. From the early text-based adventures to more modern audio games, there has always been a place for games amongst the blind. But the iPhone has taken blind gaming to the next level.
You can play everything from dice games like Dice World to card games such as those made by Blindfold Games. RS Games offers board games and there are even many 3D immersive audio adventures. And so much more.

There are developers who create their games with the blind in mind, and there are others who work hard to make sure their mainstream game is accessible as possible.

7. Books and Reference

The iPhone also makes it so much easier for the blind to access reference material. Using Safari or SIRI, you have instant access to the internet to research any topic you like. Plus there are apps for accessing text or audio books like Audible and BARD Mobile. There are dictionaries and language translators that are also accessible.

6. Social Interaction

One of the other great things the iPhone does for the blind community is bring us together socially. Of course you can use your iPhone as just that, a phone. But there is such a larger world out there to be a part of. You can text message or even audio/video chat. And then there are apps like Twitter, Facebook and Vorail. You can connect with family and friends and even other blind people from around the world.

5. Audio Description

Games and books aren’t the only forms of entertainment that the iPhone makes accessible to the blind. Thanks to companies like Disney, Netflix and Apple themselves- movies and TV shows are just a tap away for the blind and visually impaired. These companies and others have made a commitment to providing descriptive audio tracks that play along with a movie or TV show. These tracks allow the blind person to know about things happening visually on the screen. Due to the efforts of these companies, the access to described content has never been better.

4. News

The iPhone also provides many great ways for the blind and visually impaired to stay connected to local and world events. There are many apps, including Apples’s own News app, that can keep you up to date.

3. Navigation

Orientation and mobility are crucial in the life of someone who is blind or visually impaired. The iPhone offers the standard supplements for navigation like Apple’s own Maps app. However just as crucial are the various apps offered for transit like Moovitthat offer accessible bus and subway schedules. Then there are apps specifically designed for the blind like BlindSquare. This app offers real-time GPS information about your surroundings like street names, crossings and even nearby restaurants and businesses.

2. Utilities

Recognizing objects, text and currency as well as taking photos can be some of the most difficult obstacles to a blind person. This is where the iPhone shines brightest as a tool for the blind and visually impaired!Using the iPhone’s camera, there are a number of apps to help in identifying things. NantMobile Money Reader is an app that can identify currency from multiple countries just by holding the camera lens up to the bill. Digit-Eyes is another app that can easily scan any UPC code and tell you the contents of what you scanned. Another utility that makes great use of the camera is the KNFB Reader. This app enables you to take a picture of any printed text and then reads it back almost instantly.There are many other utilities that help the blind with object and picture recognition. These include Be My Eyes and BeSpecular. These apps offer live volunteers who either through audio or text can help to identify photos or objects.
The iPhone is it just great at helping you identify photos an objects but it also has inspired many blind photographers. The high-quality camera combined with spacial and face recognition has afforded blind photographers a utility that they have never had in a camera before!

1. Accessibility

There isn’t one item listed within this post that would exist without the built-in accessibility of the iPhone.For those with low vision there is Zoom and Magnifier. Zoom allows you to enlarge what is on screen for better viewing and the built-in Magnifier utilizes the iPhone’s camera to work like a traditional video magnifier by enlarging objects and text seen with the camera on screen.

Apple has also included the ability to invert as well as filter colors for those who have difficulty perceiving certain colors or who have issues with glare. And what about the color blind? Apple has even included filters that help those with different forms of color blindness.

And of course, there is Voiceover. By using certain gestures on the iPhone’s screen, Voiceover provides auditory descriptions of each element. This is what allows a blind person to navigate the web, reply to text or email messages, play games and use the other ground-breaking tools talked about in this post.

I’ve spoken to many blind and visually impaired persons who are eternally grateful to Steve Jobs and the development teams at Apple for their dedication to accessibility. A dedication that enables blind individuals by giving them independence and confidence, right out of the box.

We thank you Apple for thinking of us! For helping us to be a part of the “mainstream”, and for continuing to believe that the blind and visually impaired community is worth continuing to fight for!

Happy anniversary iPhone!

the Life After Blindness Blog and Podcast will be launching again very soon!

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Hello! My Name is Tim Schwartz and I’d like to welcome you to the Life After Blindness Blog and Podcast!
I began to slowly lose my vision over 25 years ago. I’ve been through the good, the bad and the ugly of vision loss. If not for the help of family, friends and technology – I’d never be where I am today. And now I want to share what I’ve learned with you.
I originally launched this blog and podcast in 2013. My intention was to be a resource for the visually impaired and sighted alike. I wanted this blog and podcast to be a source of inspiration for the blind community. Not just a place to find the latest news and events, but also a source of comfort. I had also hoped that sighted people would find this a welcoming resource that could aid them in relating to blind family or friends.

These feelings and goals never changed but my personal life did. When I started the podcast in 2013, my wife and I had just moved and our daughter was 8 months old. So keeping up with a blog and podcast on a regular basis proved to be overwhelming.
In my absence from the podcast, I have continued to write some blog posts. I’ve also shared numerous blindness-related stories to Twitter and Facebook. But, my desire to podcast regularly and share my passion with the world has never waivered. I feel that my dream to make ‘Life After Blindness’ achieve its potential is stronger than it has ever been!
So whether you have been blind since birth or slowly losing your vision for years, we all have this one thing in common. Therefore, we share many of the same barriers as well as achievements. Please come along with me as we embark on this journey together! And let’s show the world that there truly can be a life after blindness…