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Friday
Nov212014

Designing with sight loss in mind - kitchens

Walking into the kitchen to prepare a meal or make a hot drink is a daily occurrence for most of us.  It is part of our routine and something we do without thinking.  For a person with sight loss, the kitchen has the potential to be a dangerous environment which could make them nervous of using it.  Designing for people with a visual impairment is all about enhancing their ability to live independently and being able to confidently and safely prepare meals is a basic and very important part of independent living.  

  • As with all kitchen design, the work triangle rule applies here with the sink, fridge and hob all in a logical sequence.  Not only does this make using the space easier but for someone with poor vision, it makes things safer. 
  • The kitchen layout also needs to be uncluttered with easy access to all equipment with all handles fitted in a consistent position on all doors.  
  • One of the main hazards in kitchens is moving hot pots and pans.  To reduce accidents, position the sink close to the hob and provide a minimum of 400mm of clear work surface either side of the hob.  Allow for plenty of clear unbroken worktop space within the design, ideally a minimum of 1200mm in length. 
  • Open-ended worktops increase the likelihood of items being knocked off, so ensure that there is an end wall or tall cupboard at worktop ends. 
  • I know from personal experience that it is very easy to walk into a cupboard door which has been left open!  Yes, I should train my family to close cupboard doors, but alternative storage solutions include open shelving, sliding doors, hinged doors which open to 180 deg and doors which automatically close.  All storage should be easily accessible from a standing position. 
  • Carousels work well for corners and pull-down compartments are useful for higher level storage.  Avoid fitting wall cupboards over the sink, draining board or hob/cooker.
  • As a heavily task-oriented room, the kitchen must be well-lit, with a combination of general light from ceiling mounted light fittings and under-cabinet and hob lighting fitted to cast shadow-free light right across the work surface.  General light should enable 200 lux on the floor and task lighting should allow 500 lux on the work surface. 
  • All lighting should be individually switched and sockets for appliances should be well spaced, easy to access and plentiful. 
  • If strong sunlight is a problem at the window, fitting a vertical blind will allow the occupant to control the light and reduce glare.
  • By their nature, kitchens will have more vertical and horizontal surfaces and more controls than other rooms in the house so contrast between adjacent surfaces, equipment, switches and their background is vital.  The work surfaces should contrast a minimum of 30 LRV points with the wall and the cabinets and plinths, which in turn should contrast with the flooring. 
  • Kitchen finishes and equipment are typically shiny which could be a source of glare and prove uncomfortable for someone with a visual impairment but specifying matt or semi-matt finishes will address this.  Some patterned worktops can play tricks on the eye too so simpler styles are preferable. 
  • Tactile controls or those which click through settings, along with clear tactile labelling of hot and cold taps will make the kitchen a safer place for people with sight loss. 

This is the seventh in a series of blogs focusing on design for people with sight loss.  The blogs are written by Jacqui Smith in conjunction with the publication of a new design guide for interior designers.  Jacqui lost the sight in her left eye in 2012.  ‘Homes and living spaces for people with sight loss – a guide for interior designers’, written by Jacqui Smith and Thomas Pocklington Trust was published in October 2014.  The guide will be available in hard copy and online at www.pocklington-trust.org.uk

 

 

Monday
Nov172014

Designing with sight loss in mind - living areas

Designing living spaces starts with understanding how people use them.  Designers will consider how their client lives, the optimum layout and storage provision to meet their needs and how lighting and the right colour scheme can be used to best advantage.  For people with a visual impairment, the principle is the same but with additional focus on making the most of the person’s functional sight.  Since losing the sight in my left eye a couple of years ago I find myself approaching schemes from a slightly different perspective now that I appreciate how, in making a space more easy to navigate for someone with a visual impairment, I am creating an environment that  everyone finds easy to use.

  • Layout should be simple with furniture kept clear of the windows, radiators and electrical controls so that they are easily accessible.  Any assistive equipment such as a screen magnifier or dedicated task lighting should be easy to use but not clutter the space. 
  • Storage is an important consideration to ensure that possessions can be put away and not create a trip hazard. 
  • For private living areas it’s important to include a permanent dining area in the design as well as a dedicated workspace with room for a desk top computer and a screen reader.  An additional consideration would be space for a guide dog’s bed and equipment though this does not have to be in the sitting room.
  • General lighting should be even throughout the room and positioned to minimise dark corners and shadows created by objects and people within the room.
  • The electrical plan should allow for a mix of fixed and portable lighting arranged on several circuits and where possible dimmable.
  • By considering the tasks carried out in the space, appropriate task lighting and sockets can be worked into the design at suitable points and avoid the trip hazard of trailing wires.
  • The general lighting scheme excluding task and portable lighting should produce a minimum luminance of 150 lux on the floor surface.  Task lights should be individually switched to maximise flexibility for the user and on to task surfaces achieve 400 lux for reading and writing and 300 lux for eating. 
  • The switches themselves should be satin or matt in finish and contrast with their background.
  • To maximise daylight, fit curtain poles and tracks so that when the curtains are pulled back they let in the maximum amount of daylight.  Fitting vertical blinds at the window will allow control of strong sunlight and glare and also increase security.
  • The rules of colour contrast apply here and are especially important for the large communal lounges found in care homes where the room layout will involve furniture being positioned in the middle of the room.  Furniture which contrasts with the floor will be easier to see and contrast piping on sofas and chairs will further highlight the shape and position of a piece.
  • Based on an LRV differential of 30 points, the walls should contrast with the skirting which should contrast with the floor.
  • Handles and electrical switches and sockets should also contrast with their background to make them easier to see.

This is the sixth in a series of blogs focusing on design for people with sight loss.  The blogs are written by Jacqui Smith in conjunction with the publication of a new design guide for interior designers.  Jacqui lost the sight in her left eye in 2012.  ‘Homes and living spaces for people with sight loss – a guide for interior designers’, written by Jacqui Smith and Thomas Pocklington Trust was published in October 2014.  The guide will be available in hard copy and online at www.pocklington-trust.org.uk

Tuesday
Nov112014

Designing with sight loss in mind - entrances, corridors and stairs

Getting in and out of your home safely and easily is something that most of us take for granted.  I did until losing the sight in my left eye a couple of years ago.  Whilst the sight in my working eye is good, I can still appreciate how challenging a doorstep can be and consequently how it might make someone with a visual impairment more reluctant to leave their home.  Whether in a private home or a flat in an extra care housing development, there are a number of ways in which good design can makes these areas safer and easier to navigate.

  • Colour contrast plays an important role when specifying finishes for doors, corridors and stairwells.   There needs to be a minimum of 30 LRV point difference between adjacent surfaces for somebody with a visual impairment to recognise an object or change in surface. 
  • Doors should be painted in a colour that contrasts with the door surround and wall and similarly flooring should contrast with the walls and skirting.  Painting the leading edge of a door in a contrast colour is an additional way of making it stand out more clearly and making it less likely that someone will walk into it. 
  • Numbers and key holes on front doors and handles should also contrast with the door finish. 
  • It is helpful to people with visual impairments if door handles are positioned consistently throughout the property. 
  • Steps should be clearly defined by contrast stair nosings with an LRV differentiation of 60 points between tread and nosing.  Another way of improving the definition of stairs is to paint the adjacent walls a contrast colour or simply the bottom edge of the wall close to the step. 
  • Handrails on stairs and in corridors must contrast with the wall and be fitted in continuous runs.  They should be tactile and comfortable to touch and ideally feature tactile markers to help identify where they start and finish. 
  • Tactile flooring surfaces can work well in communal spaces indicating the top or the bottom of the stairs. 
  • Lighting at doorways and in halls, corridors and stairwells should provide a good coverage of general light and be positioned and diffused to avoid glare. 
  • Allow for switches at each end of a corridor and at the top and bottom of stairs; the switches themselves should be specified in a satin or matt finish, contrasting with the wall. 
  • Additional features that will help someone with a visual impairment include tactile markers on lift buttons and ensuring that the button panel in a lift is well lit and easily identifiable.

This is the fifth in a series of blogs focusing on design for people with sight loss.  The blogs are written by Jacqui Smith in conjunction with the publication of a new design guide for interior designers.  Jacqui lost the sight in her left eye in 2012.  ‘Homes and living spaces for people with sight loss – a guide for interior designers’, written by Jacqui Smith and Thomas Pocklington Trust was published in October 2014.  The guide will be available in hard copy and online at www.pocklington-trust.org.uk

Thursday
Nov062014

Designing with sight loss in mind - colour and contrast guidelines

Colour plays a key role in interior design, although colour itself is tricky to define as what we see as colour is determined by factors such as the quality of light, the texture of a surface, contrast and psychological influences.

Colour and contrast help people distinguish between an object and its surroundings, so it is important to get this right when designing spaces for people with a visual impairment.  Poor use of colour contrast can adversely affect navigation and safety, and consequently reduce a person’s sense of independence.  Most of us take good sight for granted.  I did until I lost the sight in my left eye two years ago, which affected my depth perception.  We walk into a room and almost instantly understand where doors are or where a step might be.  A person with a visual impairment will take longer to comprehend the space, looking for features and changes of surface.  Only last week I was visiting a new client and walking into their utility room, I completely missed the change in floor level.  The hall floor was stone and the utility room was a similarly toned vinyl but there was a step and I just did not see it.  This is why colour and contrast are so important when designing for people with a visual impairment.  Government regulations state that the minimum recommended contrast between two objects is 30 LRV (light reflectance value) points.  The LRV scale runs from 0 to 100 where 0 is a perfectly absorbing surface such as black and 100 is completely reflective, for example white.  Most companies publish the LRV for their products or will make it available on request. 

For a scheme to work for a person with a visual impairment, here are the main areas to consider in the context of colour contrast:

  • ·         Floor and skirting board
  • ·         Skirting board and wall
  • ·         Wall and door frame
  • ·         Door frame and door
  • ·         Handle and door
  • ·         Signage and door
  • ·         Furniture and floor and furniture and wall
  • ·         Switches and sockets and wall
  • ·         Handrails and wall
  • ·         Stair nosings and treads
  • ·         Bathroom fittings and their surroundings
  • ·         Kitchen worktop, wall and cabinets

The type of lighting used needs to be taken into consideration, since the way the space is lit will have an effect on the colours, even if the correct LRV is used. For example, fluorescent lighting can make colours take on a bluish bias, changing the LRV rating. Lighting should provide an even distribution of light and minimise shadows and dark corners.

When considering which finish to use, matt and semi-matt surfaces are preferable to shiny. Shiny surfaces produce glare and can be extremely disorientating to a person with a visual impairment.  This recommendation applies to all critical finishes, controls, appliances and fittings.  From personal experience I know that even a door handle catching too much sunlight can cause discomfort and have me rapidly shifting my position in a room. 

This is the fourth in a series of blogs focusing on design for people with sight loss.  The blogs are written by Jacqui Smith in conjunction with the publication of a new design guide for interior designers.  Jacqui lost the sight in her left eye in 2012.  Homes and living spaces for people with sight loss – a guide for interior designers’, written by Jacqui Smith and Thomas Pocklington Trust was published in October 2014.  The guide will be available in hard copy and o line via www.pocklington-trust.org.uk

 

Monday
Nov032014

Designing with sight loss in mind - lighting

Lighting can make or break an interior scheme whether it’s for someone with perfect vision or a person with a visual impairment. Poor lighting makes a room feel dated, unwelcoming and for a person with poor sight, extremely hard to comprehend. Since moving house a few years ago I had lived quite happily with some bland inherited lighting, knowing that it was on the refurb list! Losing the sight in my left eye in November changed all of that. Suddenly, improving our lighting at home to make the most of my functional sight became a priority. Lighting schemes for people with a visual impairment should maximise natural light, minimise glare and generate an even level of light which is easily adjustable, and this applies to both care homes and private residences. Good lighting will reduce the likelihood of falls and will support independent living. So what is “good lighting”?

Appropriate for the individual.  The ability to carry out day-to-day tasks for someone with a visual impairment will vary depending on their eye condition.  If lighting is designed to be flexibly controlled, it will enable them to tailor their environment to suit their needs. 

Sufficient for tasks, orientation and movement.  Lighting schemes should provide an even level of general light, free of shadows and dark corners, with appropriate task lighting.

Even across different areas with minimum glare.  It’s important that light levels are consistent in a property so that the eyes do not have to adjust too much when moving between rooms.  Glare can be extremely disorienting to a person with impaired sight but can be minimised by shading lamps and ensuring that the bulb is positioned out of normal view.  Vertical blinds are a good way of controlling glare from sunlight.

Adjustable for flexibility.  Lighting on different circuits, which is easily switched and dimmable, will cater for the varying needs of all people living in the home as well as those who come to visit.  Fitting plenty of sockets in communal lounges in care homes will enable table and floor lamps to be moved around to suit the needs of those using the space.

Energy efficient and sustainable.  Energy efficient lighting schemes can be achieved by making the most of the available natural light and using the appropriate lamps and luminaires for a space.  Ease and cost of maintenance are an important factor here too.  LED lighting requires more of an initial investment but the savings are most definitely made on the running and maintenance costs.

Simple to install, minimising disruption.  Improvements to lighting do not necessarily necessitate a re-wire.  As a starting point, it’s worth considering simple measures such as replacing lamps or adding task lighting.  Changing the wall colour and the layout of the furniture could improve the lighting provision dramatically without the disturbance caused by major work.

Adaptable for the future.  Well considered lighting choices which are future proofed as much as possible will pay dividends later.  Innovations in lighting are constant so being able to update and adapt lighting easily is important.

This is the third in a series of blogs focusing on design for people with sight loss.  The blogs are written by Jacqui Smith in conjunction with the publication of a new design guide for interior designers.  Jacqui lost the sight in her left eye in 2012.  ‘Homes and living spaces for people with sight loss – a guide for interior designers’, written by Jacqui Smith and Thomas Pocklington Trust was published in October 2014.  The guide will be available in hard copy and online at www.pocklington-trust.org.uk.