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Results of new sight loss research

News posted: 30/10/2013

New research shows that clever design of doorways can boost the independence of people with sight loss

New research shows that people with sight loss often have difficulties going in and out of their own homes. In a new report the sight loss charity, Thomas Pocklington Trust1, sets out simple solutions – low cost changes to doors and entrances that make them easier to negotiate and therefore boost the independence of people with sight loss. As a result of the research, new products have also been developed.

In the report ‘Making an Entrance2, Pocklington and researchers from Kingston University reveal fifteen of the most important3 ways to make entrances to homes less of a struggle for people with sight loss. They involve the clever use of colour, contrast and lighting.

“When people with sight loss have difficulty just getting in and out of their own front doors they can end up trapped in their homes and increasingly isolated,” says Lynn Watson, head of research, housing and community, Thomas Pocklington Trust. “Making it easier for people to come and go increases their confidence and helps them interact with the world.”

Pocklington has previously produced guidelines for designing and adapting housing for people with sight loss4. Now this project has focused specifically on entrances as some of the most problematic and potentially hazardous areas for people with sight loss to negotiate.

  • QuestionnaireOpen

    An extensive questionnaire was used to gather the views and experiences of 91 people with sight loss:

    • 74 per cent said they had difficulty adjusting to lighting changes between the exterior and interior of the entrance
    • 41 per cent found most door furniture – handles, locks etc – difficult to see
    • 25 per cent identified trip hazards around their home doorways
    • 31 per cent had to negotiate steps without clearly defined edges
  • Colour and ContrastOpen

    The research brought together some thirty experts from architecture, design, occupational therapy, visual impairment, local government, access and training to discuss these problems and combined their ideas with the survey results. Fifteen of the most important items to consider when adapting or designing entrances for people with low vision were identified and listed in the ‘Making an Entrance Checklist‘ of common problems and practical low-cost solutions.

    When asked what they thought could make their home entrance more accessible, people with sight loss repeatedly asked for more contrast and colour to help them see. 84 per cent said that greater contrast might help them find the keyhole in the door. 33 per cent would like a stronger colour on their front door and 43 per cent thought contrasting the door against the door frame would be helpful. Extremes in lighting were also mentioned as creating major hazards. Too much light can increase glare and too little light outside the entrance makes it harder for the eye to adjust when moving inside. Both scenarios reduce a person’s ability to navigate and judge spaces.

    Introducing colour and contrast can significantly increase visibility in hallways and entrances and help reveal the physical surroundings of a home by making edges and boundaries super clear.

    The importance of contrast is recognised in recommendations on accessibility but guidance showing how to use it is not easily available and many professionals are not aware of its vital role. Similarly, information on new forms of lighting is not always accessed and applied.

    The ‘Making an Entrance‘ research aims to fill these gaps by providing a comprehensive checklist of practical low cost solutions.  It is aimed at people with sight loss and professionals such as architects and developers, local authority funders, occupational therapists, housing providers and home improvement agencies.

  • New productsOpen

    New products have also resulted from meetings with designers and product suppliers.  These include a new range of contrasting step nosings – strips that mark the edges of steps – containing light reflecting materials to make them more highly visible, and new door numbers illuminated with backlighting.

    Says Lynn Watson: “Putting this simple knowledge into practice can help people with sight loss to live a fuller and more independent life. We know, because people with sight loss have told us, that the principles set out for ‘Making an Entrance‘ can also make a big difference to people’s lives.”

  • CASE STUDYOpen

    The project carried out a case study – checking a basement entrance for problems and making small changes that would make it easier and safer for the resident to go in and out.  Changes were made including painting the door and handrail in a contrasting colour to the walls, installing non-slip stair nosing and ensuring the external landmark to the property was easily identifiable.

    Says resident, Kevin O’Flaherty: “When I first moved in, I struggled to get in and out of my flat, not realising that some simple changes could make such a massive difference. Now  the edges to steps are clearly marked, I can use the handrail and the contrasting colours help me find the door lock.”

  • MORE INFORMATIONOpen

    For more information contact Sue Cooper on 01759 368 286, or email sc2323@btinternet.com.

  • ReferencesOpen

    1. Thomas Pocklington Trust is a leading provider of housing and support services for people with sight loss in the UK.  It also funds research that can help identify ways to improve the lives of people with sight loss. See: www.pocklington-trust.org.uk

    2. Making an Entrance: Colour, contrast and the design of entrances to homes of people with sight loss, Research Findings No 39 and Checklist is available from: www.pocklington-trust.org.uk

    The research was carried out by Professor Hilary Dalke and Research Fellow Alessio Corso, Kingston University, London.

    3. The fifteen most important items to consider when adapting or designing entrances are: front door, door handle, keyhole and lock, walls, lighting, door number, signage and landmarks, steps, handrail, ramp, flooring, paving, glass doors, navigation lights and lift buttons.

    4. Housing for People with Sight Loss, Research Findings No 17 and Good Practice Guide (GPG) No. 4; and Good Housing Design – a practical guide to improving lighting in existing homes GPG 5. All at: www.pocklington-trust.org.uk.