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.

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

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