There are several steps involved in the overall process of moving. Not only do you need to work through packing, but you also need to get acclimated to a new home, new friends, new schools, and even new jobs — all of which can be challenging. However, when you combine all of that with any type of vision impairment, it can make the situation even more strenuous.
Throughout the article below you will be able to get a better understanding of how to prepare for a move if you or someone you know is living with blindness or alternative visual impairment.
The first step in moving is to find a home that’s suitable for you and your family. In fact, locating a home that is accommodating to all of your needs should be your main priority. To look for a new home you should:
- Interview potential realtors by phone, video chat platforms, or other virtual-messaging;
- Create a list of must-haves that you are not willing to compromise giving up;
- Research surrounding areas prior to arriving;
- Take note of the homes that sound most appealing to you.
Assessing the Home’s Accessibility for Individuals with Vision Loss or Impairments
You now know that searching for a home that is accessible is important. But do you know what to look for? While the basics of the home are the same there are specifications that should be met in order to be the most accommodating.
Only about 10% of people who are blind see nothing at all. The remaining percentage of people are visually impaired to different degrees. For example, some may be able to see shapes and colors, while others can see varying degrees of light. This is why places like stairwells, hallways, paths, and other frequently-accessed locations should be well-lit.
Other parts of the home to take into consideration include the contrast of handles and doorknobs with the door and the overall safety of the home. The higher the contrast, the better.
Search for homes that are made up of varying tactile effects. This helps to stimulate the sense of touch in individuals who are blind. For example, you will want to look for homes that:
- Are free of patterned floors;
- Have side rails next to the stairs;
- Avoid blending in the last stair with the floor.
Accessibility of the Neighborhood
Take the time to familiarize yourself with the neighborhood and surrounding area. Ask yourself questions like “Are there important locations within walking distance?”, “Is there public transportation nearby? If so, is it easy to identify where?”, and “Are there other people in the neighborhood who are blind/visually impaired?”
Another thing to look for is signage and structures that are easily accessible for those with different abilities. Crosswalks with verbal instructions and audible timers are an example of structures you would want nearby.
Finding the answers to these questions ahead of time can help you determine whether or not the future home you are considering is actually the right fit for you. It’s also another way to get to know your neighbors before moving in.
Cohabitation Advice for Individuals with Different Levels of Sightedness
If you are someone who isn’t blind or visually impaired but will be moving in with someone who is, then you too will want to be mindful of the home and surrounding areas. Just as with any roommate, regardless of relationship, it is important to establish house rules. Some rules to consider implementing may be:
- Pick up items in the way of common paths;
- Don’t leave the cupboard doors open;
- Be mindful of trip hazards in all areas;
- Don’t move items from their regular place;
- Familiarize yourself with their communication habits;
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
The most important thing to do is be mindful of their abilities. Refrain from being exclusive based on your own perceptions or internal biases.
Considerations for Moving With a Service Animal
Service animals can become anxious with the new move, but there are ways to help animals cope with a relocation. It can be easy to forget that service animals can too experience the same emotions as you, including the stress that often comes along with moving.
Take a moment to acknowledge the service animal and remind them that everything will be okay. This can be done by giving them a “break” from their daily duties and taking them to the park in between moving and packing. Or even spoil them with a treat that they don’t get often.
Safety Considerations for Your Home
We’ve already discussed the importance of adequate lighting as a safety consideration. However, there are many more measures to look out for when assessing a home’s accessibility for individuals with vision loss. This is important because it allows you to see whether or not you need to make changes to your home prior to moving in to make it more accessible.
This could include grab bars, high-contrast markers, railing, bumpers, and even sharp, protruding corners. If you notice that the home has none of these, then it is a sign that a few home renovation projects may be in the near future. If you are considering making changes to your home, consider leveraging a self-storage facility to help store extra boxes while renovating. This not only reduces the number of trip hazards in the home but eliminates clutter while debris and materials are present.
Risks of Clutter
Clutter can be a nuisance for many reasons, including that it can be a serious hazard for those who are visually impaired. There are many pros that come with decluttering your home, including that it can help you become more productive in general. Being productive can help you feel less stressed inside your own home, knowing your house is clean and clutter-free.
Rather than letting your items continue to pile up, you can store them in a storage unit in your local area. This not only helps to protect your belongings, but it contributes to the general safety of those with vision impairments as well. You can find convenient storage options located in most major cities around the U.S.:
Financing Your Home Modifications
Common modifications that are made to homes of those who are blind include, but aren’t limited to:
- Adding additional lighting;
- Ensuring the floors are skid-proof and free of glares;
- Anchoring large pieces of furniture to the wall to prevent them from falling;
- Painting more contrast to walls, doorknobs, handles, and switches if they’re not contrasted enough already;
- Adjusting the windows so that any chance of glare is limited, and the sunlight is let in only when wanted.
Additional costs you’ll need to consider include the costs of your specific needs and whether or not you choose to hire help (packing, cleaning, driving, lifting/moving furniture, etc.).
While modifying your home so that it meets your accessibility expectations is important, it can also be financially impactful. Creating room in your moving budget that allows for such modifications is a great way to ensure you’ll be able to afford the changes as deemed necessary.
Another way is to set money aside from each paycheck and save up for the renovations over time. If you find that this is something that is unachievable for you, then looking into financial assistance programs and/or nonprofit organizations may be the next route you take. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers various home improvement programs and resources that can assist you with financing your home repairs.
There are mistakes you want to avoid when packing for your move. These mistakes could include:
- Not clearing out clutter;
- Not using sturdy boxes;
- Forgetting to label what’s inside;
- Not having a strategy to what goes where;
- Not using the right packing materials;
- Failing to plan for large and valuable items;
- Forgetting to leave out certain essentials.
Braille label makers are a great tool that every mover with vision loss should invest in. They can help you understand what’s in the box without having to ask every time. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t label the box with a marker. In fact, using both labeling methods is a great way to help you and the movers understand the contents of the box and where they go. When the movers are aware of the boxes’ contents, it can help to ensure that everything ends up in the correct place.
Pack a Bag of Essentials
Packing and leaving out a bag of products you know you need access to every day, even during the move, can help you keep track of important items at all times. Examples of items that your essential bag may contain include:
- Important devices;
- Medical technology;
- Items you need for your service animal;
- Eating utensils;
Getting Used to a New Living Arrangement
If you’re someone who is trying to help a loved one who is blind get used to their new home, it is important to take different points into consideration. Help organize their home and arrange their furniture in a way that is functional and stylish while respecting their preferences and opinions. You can also offer your services by helping them label boxes, pack, or watch their service animal.
Make a Checklist of Services You Need to Contact for the Move
You will want to contact multiple businesses to notify them of a move. Banks, local government/city services, the post office for mail-forwarding services, Social Security office, and billing offices are just a few examples of businesses that may require an updated address.
Additional Resources for Individuals With Blindness and Low Vision
Additional resources you and your loved ones can utilize for the blind and visually impaired are as follows:
The number one rule to remember when moving to a new home is to prioritize your safety. If you find a home that isn’t accessible enough, then take the time to research alternative options. Whether this means making necessary renovations or finding a different location entirely, the choice is up to you to make. Don’t be afraid to reach out for assistance and a guiding hand that can help you decide if a home is the best fit for you.