New guide highlights how design improves the lives of people with sight loss

In a new guide for interior designers, launched by the sight loss charity Thomas Pocklington Trust (1), one designer shares her own unique insights into the power of design to change the lives of people with sight loss. Jacqui Smith, of Homesmiths Ltd, a family-run interior design practice in Sussex, lost the sight in her left eye in 2012. She has continued to design care homes and mainstream housing with a new understanding of the value of good design for people with sight loss.

In the guide ‘Homes and living spaces for people with sight loss: a guide for interior designers(2), Jacqui has combined her personal and professional experience with research published by Thomas Pocklington Trust which has tested the benefits of key design principles for people with sight loss.

“I already knew that good design could make life easier for people with sight loss but when I lost my own sight I fully understood its power,” said Jacqui, launching the guide at a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Seminar at the Society of British and International Design (SBID) (3). “Suddenly I had to confront the problems that crop up on a daily basis for people with sight loss – knowing when a floor becomes a step; cooking; bumping into doors.  I saw first-hand how good design can address those problems.”

While almost two million people in the UK are living with some form of sight loss, very few people have no vision at all. Good design, such as clever use of colour, contrast and lighting, helps to maximise the sight that people have.  It can help with way-finding and carrying out daily tasks as well as tackling trip hazards and avoiding the discomfort that can be caused by the wrong kind of lighting.

Says Sarah Buchanan, Research Director, Thomas Pocklington Trust, “Our research has proved that design can provide solutions to some of the most common problems of sight loss. Locating switches, seeing into cupboards, carrying out daily tasks – all can be made easier if designers just think a little beyond what’s aesthetic to what works for people with reduced vision.”

The new guide, the first in a series called ‘Pocklington for Professionals‘ which will be published in coming months, summarises key design principles and contains checklists for specific areas – eg, kitchens, bathrooms, stairs, living rooms etc. The guide includes advice on:

  • How to use colour contrast to improve navigation – for example good use of contrast between furniture, floors and walls and on door and stair edges – and to highlight the position of fixtures including baths, sinks, sockets and light switches.
  • Current regulations on the light reflectance value (LRV) of surfaces and how lighting affects them.
  • How to use lighting to make the most of people’s sight and avoid glare that can make it harder to see.
  • How to make design flexible, especially in community settings where people’s individual needs are many and varied.

The guide is aimed at interior designers working on design or refurbishment of care homes, extra care and sheltered housing and mainstream housing developments and in adapting existing properties for individuals and families.

It will be launched tonight at a CPD Seminar held by the Society of British and International Design (SBID). Vanessa Brady OBE, President of SBID, says: “This guide is essential reading for all interior designers, whether or not they work on the design of care homes or specialist housing. With an ageing population the need to consider sight loss in every design project is becoming ever more important and the ideas in this guide will help our members improve living spaces for everyone.”

  1. Thomas Pocklington Trust is a national charity for people with sight loss. Its research programme commissions and funds social and public health research initiatives to identify ways to improve the lives of people with sight loss.
  2. The guide, ‘Homes and living spaces for people with sight loss: a guide for interior designers’‘, is available by clicking here. For a free hard copy please email The guide draws on material from a range of Pocklington research publications, including the Design Guide ‘Housing for people with sight loss’, published by the Building Research Establishment (BRE, 2008), which costs £40 and can be purchased online by clicking here.
  3. The Society of British and International Design (SBID) is Britain’s standard-bearer organisation to the interior design profession and the national organisation representative in Europe at the European Council of Interior Architects – click here to see more.