The Ultimate Guide to Adapting Your Home If You have Visual Impairment
How to get home adaptations if you’re blind or partially-sighted. And some of the best adaptations you can have.
If you’re blind or partially-sighted, adapting your home could help you continue to live there independently. To provide you with the best information possible about home adaptations, this article is split into two sections:
- A collection of some of the best home adaptations for blind or partially-sighted people; and
- Information on how to get home adaptations.
Part one: the best home adaptations
Organising home adaptations is one thing but how do you know which adaptations will help you best? An occupational therapist will be able to offer some advice and guidance on this subject but they may not provide an exhaustive list. We’ve listed some general ways you can adapt your home and also specific adaptations that can help you in certain rooms.
Contrasting colour highlights differences between things, making it easier for you to distinguish between them. Some examples of where you can use contrasting colour include:
- Having floors, walls, and ceilings different colours.
- Painting door frames a different colour to doors.
- Using different colour door handles.
- Having banisters and railings a different colour from walls.
- Making the edges of steps stand out by using contrasting metal or plastic strips called ‘nosings’.
- Having brightly coloured designs on glass doors and windows.
The general principle of colour contrast can be applied to almost anything related to home adaptations.
Simple improvements in lighting or changing where lights are in rooms can help you traverse your home more easily. You might want to:
- Increase the brightness of bulbs in precarious places such as stairs, the kitchen, and bathrooms. (Fluorescent bulbs are great for this because they are extremely bright. They are a bit more expensive than other bulbs but in the long-run they are cheaper because they last longer.)
- Add extra light fixtures and fittings in rooms, hallways, and outside your home.
- Put lights in places that will give you direct light. For example, fixing a light underneath a cupboard so that light shines directly onto a work surface where you prepare food.
- Improve natural light by replacing blinds or curtains or having windows replaced.
A few choice selections can help make sure you get great adaptions for your home.
- Choose only paints with matt finish. This stops any kind of glare from light.
- Wallpaper and material without patterns stand out better.
- Having a border around the edge of each room can help you distinguish between walls and the floor.
- Have any objects with sharp corners or edges covered with padded edging.
- Rails and handles placed in rooms and corridors can help you get around easily.
- Fix hazards such as loose carpets, floor boards, cupboard doors, or bannisters.
Electrical appliances can be fiddly to use. But there are things you can do to make them easier to use:
- Apply the idea of colour contrast to switches. For example, have lights switches a different colour from walls. This can simply be a piece of coloured tape around the switch.
- Use ‘bump-ons’, markers that you can attach to things, to help you distinguish between control buttons and knobs, making them easier to see and feel.
- Keep all wires organised and tied together to minimise trip risks.
- Have labels with big writing on appliances and switches to help them stand out.
There are a number of things you can do to help you out in your bathroom:
- Install non-slip flooring throughout your bathroom.
- Have non-slip mats in showers and baths.
- Make sure wall tiles are matt, in a contrasting colour to the floor to help the walls stand out.
- Install hand rails and grab rails at strategic places, such as in the shower or on the way out of the shower.
- Use contrasting colours for toilet seats and washbasins. For example, using a black toilet seat on a white toilet bowl. Or having a dark-coloured wash basin in a white-tiled bathroom.
- Ensure there is adequate lighting.
To help you get around easily in the kitchen you could:
- Use different coloured utensils, plates, pots, knives, chopping boards and so on.
- Install a different coloured sink so that it contrasts with the rest of the kitchen decoration and stands out.
- Have different coloured taps on the sink to help you distinguish between hot and cold.
- Place lights around the kitchen so that different lights can be used to light up different places of the kitchen where you perform different tasks.
- Make sure edges of cupboards, draws, and work surfaces are either padded or a contrasting colour.
Hallway and corridor-specific adaptations
Hallways can often be overlooked in home adaptations. Here are two simple but useful things you can add to your hallways:
- Place grab rails at regular intervals along corridors and hallways to help you easily move around.
- Paint any radiators that might stick out bright colours that contrast with the wall or floor. And add padding to edges.
Adaptations for your home also mean any outdoor work that needs doing. This might include:
- Repairing and maintaining paths so they are hazard-free.
- Keeping grass short and trees/hedges cut back so there are fewer hazards.
- Installing light sensors at the front and back of your home so that there will always be light when you go outside.
- Installing big, easy-to-grab door handles on front and back doors.
- Making sure locks are easy to operate.
- Having a brightly-coloured front gate that stands out.
- Have a big house number on your gate and door.
Adaptations for increased security
Home adaptations can be a good time to check and improve your home’s security by:
- Having smoke alarms checked and fitted. This is often free if you contact your local fire service.
- Planning emergency routes out of your home should something happen and you need to get out in a hurry.
- Having an entry phone system installed to add an increased level of security.
- Having a community alarm installed, where you’re always connected to a member of the community should something happen and you need assistance in your home.
So how do you get these adaptations?
We’ve talked about some of the adaptations you can install in your home but now we need to look at how you can fund the process and what financial help you might be entitled too. You also need to find the right people to do the job professionally and in a timely manner.
Part two: getting home adaptations
To qualify for adaptations, you and your home must first be assessed. You can apply for a needs assessment from your local social services department. They will come and assess your home and decide whether or not you are eligible for home adaptations. You will also need to be assessed by an occupational therapist, who will help you decide which adaptations are best for your needs.
If social services and the occupational therapist agree that you need adaptations to your home, you may be awarded a Disabled Facilities Grant. This is a grant that helps you get the adaptations you need. It is available to both homeowners and tenants up to a limit of £30,000.
However, the grant is means tested. This means if your income and savings are above your outgoings for basic needs, you might not receive a full grant that covers all the costs. And any shortfall will have to come from your own funds.
But if your income and savings fall below your outgoings for basic needs, then you will be eligible for the full grant. You will automatically be eligible for the full grant if you receive income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, or guaranteed state pension credit.
An example might make it clearer. Let’s say your income is £15,000 per year. The means test finds that your outgoings for basic needs are only £10,000. In this case, the grant awarded will only cover a certain percentage of the total cost of your adaptations because the test has found you have income above your basic needs. So you will have to contribute a percentage of the total cost of your home adaptations.
On the other hand, if you qualify for a grant but it doesn’t cover the full cost (and you’ve contributed from your own funds if necessary), you might be able to get further financial help from your local council. This help can include low cost loans and grants for private home owners.
But help may not always be financial. Councils might also provide other forms of assistance, such as helping you move to more suitable accommodation if they think the benefit is similar to that of improving your existing home.
A recap on how the Disabled Facilities Grant works: you need to contribute to the cost of adaptations when your income and savings are higher than your outgoings for basic needs. You do not need to contribute if your outgoings for basic needs are higher than your income and savings or you receive certain state support.
For more information and clarification, you should contact the environmental health or housing departments of your local council.
Disabled people do not have to pay VAT on home adaptations. So you may be eligible for VAT relief on some of the cost of your home adaptations. If you do qualify, anything done to prepare for or clean up the work is also eligible for VAT relief.
Homes that have been adapted to help disabled people are also eligible for a council tax reduction of one band. For information, check out the Gov.uk website on council tax.
Home improvement agencies
Home improvement agencies are non-profit organisations that can help you arrange home adaptation work. The services they provide include:
- Free advice about what work needs doing.
- Supporting you when you want to adapt your home.
- Arranging to have small adaptations and equipment installed.
- Organising large-scale adaptation work.
- Helping you sort out and manage your finances for adaptations.
- Finding surveyors, architects, or builders.
- Monitoring the progress of work.
There are different home improvement agencies for England, Scotland, and Wales.
- For England, visit the Foundations website.
- For Scotland, visit the Care and Repair Forum Scotland website.
- For Wales, visit the Care and Repair Cymru website.
If your home adaptations are going to be major, then make sure you have planning permission. This can often be discussed during assessments. But your local council’s website will tell you how to check if you need planning permission.
And if you choose to find your own tradespeople for your adaptations, to ensure they are fully qualified for the job and operate legally you can use websites such as the National Federation of Builders or TrustMark.
Helping you live easily in your home
Home adaptations are a great way of enhancing your home and making it easy for you to do everything you need to on a day-to-day basis. This article outlines just a few ideas that can make a difference. But you should consult an occupational therapist to see what they recommend before going ahead with any adaptations.
If you’re not sure whether you qualify for home adaptations, you should contact your local social services department to arrange an assessment.
Links to everything mentioned in the article:
- Find your local social services department
- Everything you need to know about Disabled Facilities Grants
- HM Revenue and Customs VAT Relief information
- Find out about Council Tax reduction
- Our Guide To Laser Eye Surgery
- Information about planning permission
- The National Federation of Builders
- The TrustMark website
- Home improvement agencies for England
- Home improvement agencies for Scotland
- Home improvement agencies for Wales
Who to contact
- Age Bands
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18-25 years old
Parents and carers
15-17 years old
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