Tips for living with someone who is blind or has low vision

15 July 2020

If someone in your life has recently started to lose their vision, things around the home might change a bit but, when you dig down into it, it really won't change that much.

Sharon has lived with her husband who is blind for more than 15 years and Chrissy has been blind all her life.

Based on their different experiences, Sharon and Chrissy have some handy advice if you’re new to living with someone who is blind or has low vision or you are yourself new to vision loss.

Common sense

When Sharon met her husband, it was the first time she had talked to anyone who was blind.

“It was so new to me,” she said.

“When we started living together I had to make quite a few changes to the way I did things around the house.

“It was a very steep learning curve, but it’s all just common sense solutions like pushing chairs in, not moving furniture around and not leaving the vacuum cleaner lying across the floor.”

Chrissy agreed, “It is a good idea to put things back in the same place every time you use them, so the person you live with knows where to find them.

“It bugs me when people leave things all over the bench.”

Communicate

Chrissy and Sharon agree if you live with someone who is blind, particularly if they have recently lost their sight, the best thing you can do is communicate.

“Tell them where everything is,” Sharon said.

“Whenever I serve dinner I always explain the food on the plate in terms of a clock.

“For example, your potatoes are at 12, your meat is at 6, your peas are at nine.”

Chrissy explained it is important not to interact differently with the person you live with just because they have lost their vision.

“Don’t start making decisions for them, not telling them things or bossing them around.

“They’re still the same person.

“For example, if they liked clothes shopping before they lost their sight, don’t assume that they won’t want to do that anymore just because they can’t see.

“They’ll just do it in a different way.”

You can find a balance between offering help when needed and not stopping the person you live with from remaining independent.

As Sharon and Chrissy both said, “communication is key.”

Tech solutions

While there may be some small challenges that come with living with someone who is blind, they can usually be easily solved.

Technology has come so far in the past 10 years, and the advances it has made for people with disabilities is extraordinary. Devices such as iPhones, iPads and computers either come with built-in accessibility features such as VoiceOver or with some simple technology additions like screen reading software can still be used by anyone.

Some of this technology can also assist people who are blind or have low vision to help out with household tasks.

“I have trouble with my clothes dryer because I have to change the settings by turning a dial.” Chrissy said.

“I’m thinking of buying a Smart Dryer that connects to Google Home and will let me change the settings using my phone.”

Sharon explained, “You can also buy kitchen aids including a talking convection microwave oven and a liquid level indicator, a device that sits on the side of a cup and beeps or vibrates when the cup is full.”

“If you live with someone who has just lost their sight, I’d advise both of you to get in touch with Vision Australia and make use of the resources and equipment they offer.”

Audio description services

If you’re new to blindness or low vision, you may not be aware of audio description, a service that provides an understanding of what is happening visually within a theatre, television, film, DVD, museum, exhibition or other arts related productions.

If you are watching an audio described movie, television show or performance, you will hear the visual elements such as actions, costumes and scenery being narrated between the passages of regular dialogue.

Recently, the ABC and SBS began providing 14 hours a week of audio described television on each channel.

Audio description can improve the experience of watching television not only for people who are blind or have low vision, but also for the people they live with.

“I love audio description,” Sharon said.

“It means I don’t have to describe everything and the professionals do a much better job.

“I like it for myself too because when I’m in the kitchen or another room, I can still hear the TV and the description of what is going on without having to be in front of the screen.”

“Whilst it is wonderful that two free to air TV channels have started to provide audio described programming, I’d like to see the importance of this service recognised more – by big advertisers or people uploading videos to social media.”

To learn more about where you can access audio described content, follow this link.

These are just a few of the many tips available to anyone looking for advice on living with blindness or low vision, whether it’s yourself or a loved one.

For more information designed for family, friends or carers click here or contact us on 1300 84 74 66 or info@visionaustralia.org