Easy Ways to Modify Your Home Using Color Contrasts

rainbow shoes on black and white floor
Harry Williamson / Spring Studio

Having an eye condition that makes a person legally blind doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t identify color.

Depending on their eye condition, they are most probably relying on residual sight and that can mean being able to distinguish a certain amount of bright and bold colors.

One of the easiest modifications that improves safety in the home for a person with low vision is to incorporate bright colors that work in contrast to each other.

Color contrasting is a common technique often suggested by Vision Rehabilitation Therapists.

What is a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist?

A Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (VRTs) is a person who has passed a certified course in  teaching adaptive methods to retain independence at home (or at work) for people who are blind or visually impaired.

They specialise in offering effective ways to enhance daily living skills for each individual experiencing vision loss. It is often a very simple modification using color contrasts that can help the person with low vision to:

  • Prepare food safely in the kitchen
  • Set a table correctly to avoid spillage
  • Minimise potential hazards in a living room or shared family space
  • Locate clothing easily in bedroom closets and drawers
  • Keep bathroom items accessible

Confidence through Color

When we use solid colors, like red, yellow, blue, black or white as a background to help objects stand out, it not only enables a person with low vision to ‘see’ items around the home but it also boosts one’s self-confidence by preventing accidents.

For example, it is very distressing to tip over a glass on the dining table and send liquid and possibly shards of glass flying in all directions.

To avoid such hazards, the dining experience can be modified by placing a contrasting table mat under a dinner plate (as with a white plate on a red mat) to better identify the edge of the plate.

The drinking glass is then placed to the top right of the place mat in the position known as “2 o’clock”.

It is common practice to refer to the face of an analog clock in this way, for example, to describe where items are on the dining table or on a dinner plate to help the person with low vision to enjoy their meal with more confidence.

In an earlier article, How Do You Cook for Your Family when You Can’t See, you can read about other simple tips on modifying a kitchen space by maximizing lighting and contrasts.

Let’s move on to other areas of the home with these 4 Color Contrasting Techniques:

1: Plain is Best, Patterns are Distracting

Using plain rather than patterned floor coverings is recommended to eliminate confusion by creating a strong visual edge between floors and doorways.

“Busy” patterned flooring is considered a hazard especially on stairs and steps as it doesn’t give a strongly defined boundary from one step to the next.

2: Switch on in Safety

Installing contrasting switch plates rather than using white switches on a white wall makes it safer and easier to locate them when plugging in electrical devices.

3: Contrasting Furniture

Darker furniture is more visible when placed next to light-colored walls. There is no need to outlay a lot of money to make this modification. Simply cover the back of the furniture with a bright throw rug to make it more visible.

I personally choose bold striped coverings like Peruvian or Mexican blankets or richly textured fabrics to throw over the sofa and place a few lamps strategically around the house to make corners more obvious.

4: Light up Dark Spaces

LED lamps make great beacons when placed on shelves and tables because they help the person navigate around obstacles in a dark room. The extra light helps to guide us safely through doorways.

I also find that LED lamps don’t get hot so they are great to leave on for longer periods of time.

These are just a few easy ways to begin making a home accessible through using color contrasts. For further suggestions, I highly recommend a short video clip on the VisionAware website, Enhancing Visual Contrasts, in which the American Foundation for the Blind demonstrates how color contrasts can be easily incorporated into home life.

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