Your Living Room

People spend a lot of time in their living rooms. It's the natural place for reading, TV watching and conversation. In terms of design and function, it also tends to be one of the simplest. Still, problems and potential hazards exist that you'll want to be conscious of if you are experiencing vision loss. For example:

Is your living room overly lit in the daytime? Many living rooms are designed to take in great amounts of light—a positive for a sighted person but a problem if your eyes are sensitive to light. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some living rooms—in many older homes, for example—are excessively dark, limiting visibility.

Also, are there too many sharp edges in your living room? Again, a great deal of living room furniture is designed with little-to-no thought to people with vision loss. Think of the typical low-lying, sharp-cornered coffee table or the common use of glass and other hard surfaces as a design element. The likelihood of falls and painful collisions is always present.

Here are some simple ideas for creating a safe, welcoming living room.

  • Experiment with lighting to achieve the most pleasing and workable room tone. You can also install window blinds, which are adjustable to reduce glare from sunlight. Choose room lighting that provides light over a broad area, with adjustable swing-arm or gooseneck lamps for targeted lighting in areas where you read or do other tasks. Visit the General Lighting section for more tips.

  • Kill the clutter. Organize your furniture to create 3-foot wide clear paths around the room, and make sure there are no holes or rips in the carpet or other floor irregularities. Create a walkway using large furniture elements, such as the back of the sofa. You can also arrange furniture to create a "resting area" where you can pause if you need to adjust to lighting level changes (e.g., going from a dimly lit hallway to a bright living room).

  • Remove low-lying objects. When laying out the furniture, you might consider removing the coffee table and other low-lying objects altogether. If you don't wish to give up having a coffee table, choose one that contrasts with the color of the floor and walls and has rounded edges. Avoid clear glass.

  • Rearrange electrical cords so they are not in the pathway.

  • Remove throw or area rugs, if possible. If you need to leave them in place, use nonskid padding or double-sided tape to secure them to the floor.

  • Remember to use contrasts. Contrast comes in handy throughout the living room. Pillows and throws should contrast sharply with the furniture they are placed on—different colors, patterns, and textures. Choose furniture fabric that contrasts with the floor material, or use a bright-colored piping along the edges of seat cushions. The carpet or other floor covering, windows, and exits should contrast with walls. Finally, use switch plates that contrast in color to the walls, or highlight existing outlets with colored paint or tape. See the Contrast section for more information.

    Decorating with pillows or throws in contrasting colors makes it easier to see furniture.

     brown couch with cream colored pillow
  • Be mindful of glare and where it lands in the room. Position your TV, as well as clocks, stereos, and anything with electronic displays, so that they are always away from glare.

  • Keep everything in its place. You can use a tray, for example, to store objects like a remote, so you can always find it when you need it.

  • Ask friends and relatives to respect your arrangements. Once you have your living room arranged to your liking, ask friends and family to help you keep it all in order. Request that they put items back in the same place they found them, and that they not move anything without your permission.

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