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Wednesday
Nov262014

Designing with sight loss in mind - bedrooms

Designing for people with sight loss is all about creating spaces that promote confidence and independent living.   Bedroom designs should enable a person with a visual impairment to care for their personal appearance, dress themselves easily and move around the room confidently, especially at night.  Changes to layout, lighting and use of colour can make a huge difference to how a person with sight loss feels in an environment.  My own experience of partial sight loss two years ago has since resulted in a full scale rearrangement of our bedroom and improvements to lighting!

  • The first thing to consider is layout and ease of navigation.  Allow plenty of space around the bed to make getting in and out of bed as easy as possible and ensure that wardrobes and dressing tables are easy to access. 
  • If you are specifying built-in wardrobes then it’s worth considering sliding doors since they will not project into the room and present a potential hazard.
  • Lighting in wardrobes is key, preferably operated by an easily accessible switch that contrasts with the carcass colour and which cuts out after a short period. Ideally bedrooms should be en-suite with unobstructed access to the bathroom, which is essential at night.
  • It is important to maximise natural light and curtains and blinds should be fitted to allow as much light in as possible.  If the room gets flooded with sunlight at certain times of the day, vertical blinds fitted at the windows can help control this and will reduce glare which can be very disorientating to someone with a visual impairment. 
  • The bedroom design should include a combination of general and task lighting, positioned to minimise shadows from objects or people moving around the room.  General lighting levels should be even and should provide on the floor a minimum of 150 lux.  All light sources, ceiling fittings in particular must be fully shaded to prevent glare.  Aim for luminance levels of 150 lux horizontally on the open drawer, 150 lux vertically on hanging clothes, 150 lux on the floor for putting on shoes, 200 lux on the dressing table and 400 lux on the pillow for reading in bed. 
  • To enable the person using the room to adjust light levels to their needs, all lights should be switched independently and with the exclusion of internal wardrobe lights, dimmable. 
  • There should be ample provision for points for call systems, television and computer equipment as well as plenty of electrical sockets to supply bedside lamps and hairdryers to avoid trailing wires and trip hazards. 
  • Whatever colour scheme you are using ensure that objects and surfaces contrast with their backgrounds so they can be clearly identified with a minimum LRV differential of 30 points.  The floor should contrast with the skirting which should contrast with the wall. Furniture, handles, switches and sockets should contrast with their background. 
  • Finally, it’s important to avoid shiny finishes which might produce glare and be disorientating.  Opt for satin finishes for ironmongery and matt or semi-matt wall and furniture finishes.

This is the final 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

Photograph supplied by Diana Celella

Tuesday
Nov252014

Designing with sight loss in mind - bathrooms

Designing for people with sight loss centres around creating safe living environments which are easy to navigate and encourage independent living.  Bathrooms present a number of challenges to a person with poor sight, so taking extra care to provide for the needs of a person with a visual impairment is critical.  Our own bathroom was the first room we redecorated after I lost the sight in my left eye and by carefully considering the layout, lighting and colour contrast we have a space where I feel incredibly comfortable.

  • Bathroom layouts and fittings should be logical and uncomplicated.  The ideal bath is one with a slip-resistant flat bottom with recessed hand grips on both sides.  Curved basins are better than squarer styles since they have no sharp corners.  For both bath and basin plugs ensure that they are incorporated within the waste.
  • Kitchen style lever taps are the best style to use fitted with safety temperature locks to prevent accidental scalding.  The hot and cold must be clearly identifiable by touch, have bold visual clues and contrast with their background.
  • Close coupled toilets are ideal or those that incorporate a concealed cistern with a toilet set in a contrast colour (though not red since this can be perceived as either dangerous or hot). 
  • The shower must be fully accessible with a flush floor draining gulley or a level grating over a recessed shower tray, both set into a non-slip floor material and in a contrast colour to surrounding surfaces. 
  • The general lighting and task lighting must provide an even flood of light throughout the room with 200 lux on the floor.  The lighting should be positioned to ensure that shadows are not cast by the user especially over areas such as the sink. 
  • Mirror lights can be helpful so long as they are fully enclosed with diffusers to avoid glare.
  • Colour contrast can be used to great effect in the bathroom, clearly defining the position of fixtures, fittings and controls, for instance the shower.  A contrast bath panel and toilet seat will enable the bath and WC to be readily identified. 
  • Choose a plain, non-slip and non-reflective flooring which contrasts with the wall. Using contrast tiles against the main wall colour will help to define the boundaries of the room and the location of the sanitary fittings. 
  • Flush handles should be the large spatula type or large push buttons and, along with other controls and fixtures such as grab rails, should be tactile and contrast with their surroundings.  
  • Shower heads and rails should contrast with their background and be accessible from a standing position, and adjustable in height and direction.  If a shower curtain is used, choose one in a contrasting colour to the wall and ideally with a contrast band on the leading edge to make it stand out.  Shower screens should contrast with the adjacent surfaces and be neither transparent nor shiny.  Any protruding edge should be clearly identifiable in a contrast colour to the screen to prevent someone accidentally walking into it when open. 
  • Colour contrast can also be applied to towels and toiletries choices, making them much easier to locate when contrasting with their surroundings. 
  • By their nature bathrooms fixtures and fittings tend to be shiny.  Reflective surfaces cause glare which for someone with a visual impairment can be extremely disorientating so it’s important to specify satin and semi-matt finishes wherever possible.

This is the eighth 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.

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