Design for Ability: Housing Considerations for the Visually and Hearing Impaired - Quicken Loans Zing BlogHave you recently experienced a life change that affected your vision or hearing? Are you someone who is blind and/or deaf and looking for a house of your own? There are a few modifications that can make your new space easier to live in.

Vision Impairment

If you’re visually impaired, there are a few important things you can do to be more comfortable and safe in your living space.

If you’re blind, much of the navigation in your own home is done through memorization and feel. Beyond that, it’s just a matter of removing potential hazards. If you can see, but have lower vision than normal, pay special attention to lighting and contrast.

Removing Hazards

The American Federation for the Blind (AFB) lists several ways to eliminate potentially dangerous obstacles from the home:

  • Replace worn carpet that could come up and trip you, and tape down or remove area rugs.
  • Tape down or remove electrical cords from pathways.
  • Keep desk and table chairs pushed in.
  • Remove large furniture pieces from pathways.
  • If you have low vision, avoid cleaning products that create glare.
  • Use nonskid flooring.

Lighting

For someone with low vision, it’s important to keep all regularly used spaces as well lit as possible. The AFB has several tips:

  • In areas that are frequently used, make sure there are plenty of table and floor lamps.
  • Utilize shades, blinds and drapes to control the amount of natural light coming in.
  • Position screens and mirrors so that you can avoid glare.
  • Taking advantage of under-cabinet fixtures can help with lighting in the kitchen.
  • Keep lighting as consistent as possible throughout the house in order to avoid bright spots and shadows.
  • Keep light switches near the bed for easy access, and use night lights.

Use Contrast to Your Advantage

Contrast can help provide key navigational landmarks throughout the home if used correctly. The AFB recommends the following:

  • Place dark objects against a light background in order to make them easier to see.
  • Install door knobs that contrast in color with doors. Painting the wood in the doorframe a different color can make it easier to find.
  • Mark the edges of steps or ramps with colored tape to make them easier to spot.

Hearing Impairment

Hearing impairment presents a set of challenges when it comes to notifications such as a doorbell or an emergency alarm. The following set of suggestions comes from the Minnesota Department of Human Services:

  • If you have a hard time hearing the doorbell, purchase a strobe or vibration system.
  • Similarly, you can get extra loud or strobe light smoke alarms or carbon monoxide alarms. You might also need a bed shaker. Just make sure these devices are compatible with your existing system. You can even buy a system that adds severe weather alerts.
  • Outdoor motion sensing lights can alert you to movement.
  • You can purchase a system to alert you to security breaches and appliance buzzers.
  • Personal pagers can be used by relatives or friends to get the attention of the deaf person.
  • Make sure to visually check that water is shut off.

Room acoustics can also make a big difference in how well you hear. If sound bounces off hard surfaces, it won’t travel as far. You can purchase acoustic wall tiles to help focus sound waves. You can also put foam around windows to help block outdoor background noise.

Do you have any tips for modifying your home if you’re visually and/or hearing-impaired? Share them in the comments.

Note: This is the second post in a two-part series on special needs home modifications. For part one on physical disability, click here.

 

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Hi, I was recently diagnosed with hearing issues and am now wearing hearing aids. I’m really struggling with it only being 53. It’s not extreme, but I’m fining that my home of tile & wood floors and few draperies is VERY echoing. We recently purchased a lot and are going to build our dream retirement home. So, I’d love to figure out what the ideal surroundings are for my condition. Is there a list for this? I’d sure appreciate any assistance or maybe send me in the right direction of finding it.
    Feeling way to old and Shrek-like : (

    1. Hi Kristi:

      My personal disability doesn’t involve hearing loss, but I would definitely avoid tile and hardwood as much as possible. As you said, the echo will be difficult to deal with. Carpeting and rugs can help with that and it may help keep too much sound from bouncing around so you can focus on the conversation going on in front of you. There may be other message boards online for the deaf and hard of hearing that can tell you the best way to tune your hearing aids for particular. Hope this helps!

      And personally, I think Shrek does a lot of cool things.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

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