Drawing of a 2-story blue and white house encased in a dotted sphere

"Smart" home modifications for people
with vision impairment

If you or someone in your household is impacted by any degree of vision impairment, there are likely "smart" devices and modifications that can make your home safer, more comfortable and easier to navigate. From WiFi-enabled refrigerators to voice-activated control systems, new technologies can make your personal environment more convenient and accessible.

Vision impairment affects millions of people in America, and even more around the globe. The World Health Organization estimates that as many as 1.3 billion people worldwide live with a form of vision impairment, including 217 million people with moderate to severe vision loss and 36 million people who are legally blind.

Limited vision can make daily tasks challenging, but the introduction of smart home technology is making many activities a bit easier. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at the range of technology that may be helpful to those with vision impairment. We will also break down the best ways to use these devices and practical tips to address common challenges.

Part 1: General tips for making your home smarter, safer and more comfortable

Making a home more comfortable and navigable for someone with vision impairment starts with understanding the technology available as well as the level of vision impairment the individual has. Only 10 percent of people deemed legally blind have absolutely no vision. The following tips include strategies for people with and without the ability to perceive light.

 

Managing lighting

  • Use voice-activated blinds to manage glare. For some people with very limited vision, glare — even glare that typically sighted people would not notice — can completely limit their ability to see. Voice-activated window blinds make it easy to quickly correct glare when lighting conditions outdoors change.
  • Install automatic dimmers to manage lighting. Keeping the light at a consistent, comfortable level is important for those with minimal vision. Automatic dimmers measure the ambient light in the room and adjust the lighting to compensate as lighting changes throughout the day. Often used in factory settings, this can be adapted for your home to make your light more manageable.
  • Match your smart lighting with the right type of lighting. Look for lighting with a Kelvin rating of under 5,000K, which seems to be the most comfortable for many people with low vision.

 Labeling and marking

  • Use large, contrasted labels for items in your home if you have low vision. White or fluorescent 3x5 index cards with large, dark lettering are often sufficient to allow you to know, at a glance, what is in a storage container. You can also use colored duct tape and write in a contrasting color on the tape.
  • Consider tactile markings if you are blind or suffer from changing vision. If the labels are not sufficient, use tactile items, such as Velcro, safety pins, rubber bands, pipe cleaners or foam alphabet letters, to mark items in your home so you can easily feel the labels. Sometimes you can even glue an example of the item to the outside of the storage container to make it easy to identify what is inside.
  • Use a Braille printer to create labels for items. This is particularly important for people with no vision, as it provides a tactile clue as to what is in containers. Labeling things like cleaning supplies and hair spray can help prevent serious accidents if an item is not placed in its normal location.

 Preventing falls

  • Use wearable fall protection to reduce the risk of falls. Wearable sensors are a unique type of technology that can help those with vision and mobility issues stop a fall before it starts. These devices send a signal if a person is at risk for a fall, so the individual can make a correction and avoid the fall.
  • Consider a sonar smart watch. This device uses sonar vibrations to help the wearer know how far away objects are when navigating a home. This can help prevent falls or other injuries that occur when someone with low vision or blindness bumps into an obstacle in the home.
  • Use motion-sensing lighting to ensure every area where you are walking is properly illuminated. Rather than fumbling for a light switch or forgetting to turn it on, make your lights motion activated. If you have low vision rather than total blindness, this will help you navigate more easily and avoid any items in your path.

House cleaning

  • Invest in a robotic vacuum cleaner. These devices use smart sensors to stay within the confines of a room and can remove surface dirt from carpeting and hard flooring. Some can also be set up to connect to WiFi or voice-activated home assistance, such as Alexa or Google Assistant, to make cleaning even easier.
  • Use a mopping robot for cleaning hard flooring. Slippery floors and low vision are not a good combination, but robotic mopping tools can do the work for you without as much risk.
  • Use a window cleaning robot. Dirty windows can make a home look dingy and dirty. Getting a glare-free clean when you cannot see well is difficult, though. A robotic window cleaner can make this task easier and automatic.

 Home maintenance and repairs

Plumbing

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

For more information about smart home technology you can implement to make your home safer and more comfortable, visit:

 

Go to Part 2: Around the home