Everyday low vision lighting advice

There’s no underestimating the power of good lighting. For someone with low vision, the brighter the lighting, the better. Dimly-lit homes will make it difficult to complete everyday tasks.

Our occupational therapists have put together some tips for improved lighting, which can impact your ability to read, write, cook and enjoy hobbies and pastimes.

Occupational Therapist Keearny sits reading her magazine. A spotlight throws light onto the magazine page.
Clip on lights are great to read magazines and books

It’s easy to enhance your lighting. This article contains some low vision lighting advice to help you in your home. There are three different types of lighting to consider around your own home:

  • General lighting
  • Natural lighting
  • Task lighting
Modern kitchen with plenty of downlighting over dining table
Bright lighting around the home can make a huge difference

General lighting

Standard home lighting is often inadequate for people with low vision. General lighting should provide enough light for you to see and move around comfortably and safely. General lighting may include overhead fixtures, such as downlights, and should brighten the room as much as possible.

Glare may impact a person’s vision. Glare sensitivity can affect certain eye conditions such as:

  • Retinitis pigmentosa
  • Glaucoma
  • Macular degeneration

General lighting advice includes:

  • Add extra light fixtures where you can
  • Ensure stairs and landings are well lit
  • Put light switches at the top and bottom of the stairs
  • Keep light colours on walls and ceilings to enhance light reflection.

Natural lighting 

Coverings and blinds can hamper the flow of natural light into your home. Try to maximise light as much as possible. Natural light will fully illuminate any environment.

Advice includes:

  • Drawing back curtains during the day
  • Keep windows and netting as clean as possible
  • Use white or light colour window frames
  • If you suffer from glare, work with your back against the window.

In the winter, be mindful of clouds that may affect natural light entering your home.

Older woman pulling back blinds
Try to let as much natural light into your home as possible

Task lighting

Task lighting is so-called because it does just what it suggests – enables you to achieve a task. It is lighting localised to an area. Task lighting is directed onto a particular spot to make it easier to complete everyday jobs.

Consider whether task lighting available in daylight (brighter, clearer light) is a better option for you.

Good quality task lighting becomes more important as your eyesight deteriorates.

Advice includes:

  • Consider a low pendant lamp over your dining table
  • Adjust your task lamp to keep the light on the task you’re undertaking
  • Place a task lamp to the side of your work to reduce glare and limit shadows
  • Consider a LED foldable lamp for restaurants and dining out
  • Clip-on lamps to your bed headboard or on a book are good options
  • Position the lamp on the side of your strong eye and make sure it is angled away from you
  • Fix lights underneath kitchen cupboards so that light shines onto work surfaces
  • A matt surface below a light will avoid glare
Occupational Therapist Keearny stands next to a kitchen sink pouring water from a kettle
Lights underneath a kitchen cupboard will add brightness

Smart lighting

Your eyes will become more tired as the day progresses. You may want brighter lighting in the morning and a softer hue later. That’s where new technology can help. Philips Hue lights (link opens in a new window) offer a range of smart lighting options that are wireless and adjusted for your requirements. The lights work via a hub that connects your lights to your home WiFi network.

Low vision lighting – what to consider

LED or halogen?

LED bulbs are the preferred choice because they produce a direct, bright light that won’t get hot over a long period. This type of lighting is initially more expensive, but LED lights last much longer than traditional bulbs and are cheaper to run long-term.

Halogen bulbs are traditional bulbs. LED bulbs can use 85% less energy than a halogen, yet still emit the same amount of light.

Lumens and lux – what’s the difference?

Lumens and lux indicate the brightness of bulbs.

Lux is the unit of the light current and the power of the light. The more lux, the greater the amount of light that falls on a surface or given area. Lux measurements give us the amount of visible light present and the intensity of the illumination on the surface. One lux is equal to one lumen per square metre.

Lumens – Lumens is the measure of luminous flux, the amount of light emitted in all directions. While lumens give us the total amount of light output, it doesn’t offer us the overall picture of how much light is shining in an area.

Occupational Therapist Keearny stands by a range of lighting options in the VisAbility shop
The higher the lux, the larger amount of light output in a given area

For people with low vision, we use lux as a measurement.

Recommended lux levels for people with a vision impairment in the kitchen are 600. The standard is around 240.

In the bedroom, lux levels are at 300 for a person with low vision, and the standard level being 150 for someone with regular sight.

In living areas, lux levels should be around 350 for someone who is vision impaired. Standard lux levels are 160.

The VisAbility Shop  offers low vision lighting products and advice or our Occupational Therapy team can be contacted through the Client Experience Team on cetenquiries@visability.com.au and arrange an appointment to discuss lighting options that suit your vision impairment.