How Blind People Navigate Their Homes

How Blind People Navigate Their Homes

05 August 2017

If you have ever gotten up in the middle of the night, you probably stumbled around a bit and stubbed your toe a few too many times before you finally got to the kitchen or bathroom. Experiences like these often make the sighted wonder what those with visual impairments go through to navigate their homes.

For those who are blind or have low-vision, finding their way through their home is just a part of their daily routine.  In fact, a typical day in the life of a blind person is not all that different from the sighted, with just a few differences. 

When a person loses their sight, whether it is in childhood or later in life, they need to make changes to their daily routine which enable them to move about their home freely. By adapting their homes to meet their specific needs, the blind can access everything in their daily lives with ease and independent of any assistance.

Organization is key to home navigation and sustainability for the blind. Familiarity with the location of objects in the home allows blind people to move about freely from room to room without any incidents or accidents occurring.

When everything has its own place, the stress of maintaining a daily routine becomes minimal. Upon waking up, a person without sight knows that their alarm clock is in a certain place on the end table, that the space around their bed is clear of obstructions, and that they can walk around their bedroom or bathroom and know exactly where everything is, from their toothbrush to their shoes.

The rest of the rooms in the home must function in the same way, each maintaining a specific space and “filing” system for everyday objects. Just as your kitchen cabinets undoubtedly have set spaces for mugs, plates, and bowls, so too will an entire pantry or medicine cabinet have precise spaces designated for specific objects in a blind person’s home.

This organization and attention to detailed locations of things will apply to all elements of the home. Not only does this method of arrangement work to keep the blind from searching for the items all around the house, it also allows them to quickly get out of the house and off to work without wasting time looking for their things.

Just like anyone’s home has a specific organization, a blind person’s home also utilizes consistency in object placement to take the hassle out of finding what you need. When you return home and place your keys on the table by the door and your jacket in the hall closet, you always know exactly where to find them. This system of reliability works for everyone, and it can make all the difference to those who live with a visual impairment and want to retain their freedom.

In addition to the consistent placement of items in the home, many blind people utilize tools to help them with tasks.

For example, it might be confusing for people to imagine how a blind person could distinguish between cleaning product bottles under the sink which all have very similar shapes. To make sure that they are choosing the right product, many blind people will use a printable Braille label to mark the bottles. If they are unable to read Braille, they can also use rubber bands or other objects to mark the bottles so that they can tell the difference between them.

Simple and elegant solutions like these are just a part of everyday life for a blind person.

Once out of their house, though, the blind have no control over the placement of objects and potential hazards on city streets. It is for this reason that technology is evolving to assist the blind with navigation and why city planners and businesses are including assistive elements in their designs, like audible crosswalk signs and truncated domes for safe traveling.