Reducing trip hazards with lighting modifications

Lighting modifications can dramatically improve brightness around your home, and help prevent falls or trips if you are vision impaired. Bright lighting will mean you can safely move around your home without running the risk of accidents.

Anne is in the process of modifying her home to improve her lighting, so she can do the things she wants to do.

With restricted vision and poor lighting, Anne has had numerous falls which has led to hospital admissions. “I have 21% everyday vision, and my night vision is much worse, just 3%, so I have to watch my every step.”

Anne stands at the entrance door of her home with bright light in front
Anne is in the process of making her home brighter

Risks of inadequate lighting

Over ten years, Anne, aged 58, has broken many bones including, her arm, shoulder, ankle, foot, neck, back, and skull. The accidents have happened in separate falls. They are all a direct result of falling or tripping because of her low vision.

Anne lives with her husband, Garry, in the northern suburbs. With three grown-up children and five grandchildren, family life keeps her busy. Outside of her home she relies on a long cane for her mobility needs and enjoys a good level of independence.

Anne looks through photos of her as an athlete in her younger years
Anne was a champion long distance runner in her teenage years

In her younger years, before her vision deteriorated, she made a name for herself in long-distance running competitions.

“As a teenager, I was a keen athlete entering races – the 1,500 metres up to 10,000 metres. I am a twin, and my sister, Margaret, was also a runner in her youth. As you can imagine, it used to get very competitive.”

Anne's yellow training outfit from the Commonwealth Games Training Squad
Anne still has her Commonwealth Games Training Squad tracksuit from 1982

Margaret still runs and cycles, but Anne’s low vision means she’s less active than her twin and enjoys a more sedate pace of life.

In 1979 she won Perth’s City to Surf race completing the 12 kilometres in a record 46 minutes 58 seconds.

In 1982 at the height of Anne’s athletic years she was selected to train in the Commonwealth Games.

Anne’s vision loss occurred after she developed necrotising fasciitis. The disease has come back twice over the years. The flesh-eating condition meant that over twelve months, in 2014, she had 63 operations. Anne became legally blind due to advanced bilateral chorioretinal scarring.

In 2018, shingles meant her vision in her left eye deteriorated even further. It led to a hospital stay of eight months.

Spotlighting

Anne has been receiving support from VisAbility through orientation and mobility training and assistive technology.

She’s also been attending some of our adult group programs such as Living Well.

Through the advice of occupational therapists, she’s learned about the benefits of spotlighting. Anne bought a rechargeable folding desk lamp from the VisAbility Shop – The Triumph Rechargeable Folding Desk Lamp.

Anne reads a binder full of paperwork with the portable spotlight shing downwards
The spotlight has varying degrees of brightness

With 30 bright led lights, USB charging, a three-tap system to make the light more powerful and weighing less than 30 grams, she finds it extremely useful.

“This goes in my handbag, and I use it a lot at restaurants when I am eating or if I’m reading around my kitchen table. It’s very reasonably priced and perfect for everyday use.”

She also used a powerful wallet torch that has different fittings so you can angle the direction of the light.

Planning lighting modifications

Last year an occupational therapist came to her house to review her lighting, to plan for some home modifications through her NDIS plan.

“The occupational therapist came to my house and went through every room. It was clear that my lighting was inadequate, so I am now acting on these recommendations.”

Anne has already improved some lighting in the hallway area. A ceiling light, when turned on, throws an expanse of light into the area.

The main points of concern were around the staircase, landing area, living areas, kitchen, and bedroom. The ensuite bathroom area is at the top of the stairs that has proved hazardous before.

Anne standing on her staircase
A key priority is brightening her staircase

Our occupational therapist recorded Lux lighting levels around the staircase which fell well short of requirements.

For a person with a vision impairment they should measure around 300. Anne’s staircase and landing area ranged between 47 and 67.

The staircase area has very high ceilings that offer limited support for Anne’s lighting needs.

She has already installed some bright sensor lights at the top of the stairs that come on automatically. This simple modification is a tremendous help and prevents her from tripping, but she acknowledges more alterations are required.

“I’m going to have lights fitted on each step to provide directional lighting. The overhead lighting provides shadows, so I want to brighten this area.”

Improving light throughout the house

But that’s not all. Anne wants to throw more light into her home in whatever way she can.

“I am also going to plasterboard the original internal brickwork to lighten the area. Lino will replace the carpet on the staircase. It’s non-slip and has a cushioning texture,” she explains.

Anne’s current carpet is the same throughout the landing and up the stairs. It means there’s no contrast or change in texture, to signify when she has arrived at the top of the stairs. The textured lino will help to differentiate between the two areas.

She’s also looking at ways to improve natural lighting by minimising window coverage.

Anne built her house thirty years ago and it has been a great family home, and she doesn’t want to leave it yet. Lighting modifications will help her to remain in the house for years to come.

If you’d like support with lighting modifications, contact our Client Experience Team on cetenquiries@visability.com.au.

Qualified occupational therapists undertake the assessments to discover whether lux lighting levels are correct for your low vision requirements. These modifications can be funded under My Aged Care (link opens in new window) or through your NDIS plan.